This best-of collection follows one of rock's most fascinating, uncompromising female artists on pretty much every step of her path -- which certainly ranks among the more individualistic trails blazed in recent memory. The greatest-hits component of the package contains 14 diverse tracks, from radio staples like "Come to My Window" and "I Want to Come Over" to selections that attest to Etheridge's flair for melding hard-rock energy with singer-songwriterly finesse, as on her blazing cover of Tom Petty
's "Refugee." It's intriguing to follow Etheridge's evolution as a performer, from the windswept strummer who turned out "Ain't It Heavy" to the older and wiser -- yet a bit more vulnerable -- woman who crafted "Breathe." The set is fleshed out by a passel of newly recorded tunes, notably a wrenching cover of Janis Joplin
's "Piece of My Heart" -- the song Etheridge chose for her first public performance, on the 2004 Grammy Awards, after undergoing treatment for breast cancer. The new originals, clearly influenced by that experience, hone in on Etheridge's innate strength, especially "I Run for Life," an unshakably affirmative song that's buoyed by a soaring melody that ranks with the best of her catalog. The personal touch of those compositions is matched in the disc's packaging, which includes song lyrics rendered in Etheridge's own handwriting. The Road Less Traveled
is a true survivor's road map -- one that fans are sure to pull out until it's dog-eared.