- Personnel includes: Mary-Chapin Carpenter (vocals, acoustic guitar); John Jennings (acoustic guitar, background vocals); Peter Bonta (acoustic guitar); Steuart Smith, Mike McAdam (electric guitar); Lee Roy Parnell (slide guitar); Mark O' Connor, Michael Duocet (fiddle); Beaumont Tench (piano, Hammond B-3 organ); John Jarvis, Matt Rollings (piano); Steve Nathan (Hammond B-3 organ); John Carol (keyboards); J.T. Brown (bass, background vocals); Don Dixon, Glenn Worf, Rico Petrucelli (bass); Edgar Meyer (double bass); Dave Mattacks (drums, percussion); Kenny Aronoff, Robbie Magruder (drums); Tom Roady (percussion); Trisha Yearwood, Shawn Colvin, The Indigo Girls, Garrison Starr (background vocals).
- Producers: Mary-Chapin Carpenter, John Jennings, Blake Chancey, Mark Isham.
- Compilation producer: Gregg Geller.
- Recorded between 1989 & 2001. Includes liner notes by Jay Orr.
- Personnel: Mary Chapin Carpenter (acoustic guitar, background vocals); John Jennings (guitar, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, baritone guitar, cowbells, tambourine, background vocals); John Jorgenson (guitar); Peter Bonta (acoustic guitar, piano); Duke Levine, Mike McAdam, Pat Buchanan, Steuart Smith (electric guitar); Lee Roy Parnell (slide guitar); John McCutcheon (hammer dulcimer); Mark O'Connor , Michael Doucet (fiddle); Jimmy Breaux (accordion); Bob Sheppard (soprano saxophone); Matt Rollings (piano, organ); Jon Carroll (piano, keyboards, synthesizer, background vocals); John Carroll , Benmont Tench, John Jarvis, Steve Nathan (piano); Edgar Meyer (double bass); Dave Mattacks, Robbie Magruder (drums, percussion); Greg Morrow, Kenny Aronoff , Andy Newmark (drums); Tom Roady (percussion); Cindy Walker, Emily Saliers, Garrison Starr, Herb Pedersen, J.T. Brown, Amy Ray , Annie Roboff, Shawn Colvin, Ava Aldridge, Trisha Yearwood, Beth Nielsen Chapman (background vocals).
- Liner Note Author: Jay Orr.
- Photographers: Gwendolen Cates; Michael Wilson ; Caroline Greyshock.
- Arranger: Mark Isham.
- The Essential Mary Chapin Carpenter takes hits from six albums she recorded for Columbia, omitting material from her first album, Hometown Girl. Since the majority of these songs appealed to both pop and country audiences, they achieved wide crossover popularity. The 16 cuts include the original versions of Carpenter's Top Ten hits "I Feel Lucky," "Passionate Kisses," "Down at the Twist and Shout," "Quittin' Time," and her first number one hit, "He Thinks He'll Keep Her." While the majority of these tracks are also included on Party Doll and Other Favorites, the difference is Essential contains the radio versions, not alternate takes or live tracks. Both discs are recommended to fans of Carpenter's modern folk/country hybrid. ~ Al Campbell
Uncut (5/04, p.114) - 4 stars out of 5 - "[T]he best interpreter of her songs has always been Carpenter herself, signalling with subtle nuances of inflection their varieties of depth and humour."
Dirty Linen (2/04, pp.73-4) - "Carpenter's dreamy vocals whisk you off with thoughts of a tender 'true love' roaming over a green pasture far, far away."