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The Merle Travis Guitar (Collection)

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Album Review

Merle Travis was one of Nashville's first great triple threats — a gifted songwriter, a fine singer, and an exceptional guitarist — and it says a tremendous amount about his talents as an instrumentalist that his picking is regarded even more highly than his other work. Travis' influential fingerpicking style married the melodic traditions of country with the lilting swing of jazz, and he was a massive influence on an entire generation of Nashville guitarists (among them Chet Atkins), few of whom could match him for speed, accuracy, and a fine touch. The Merle Travis Guitar was the great picker's first LP, a collection of 12 solo instrumental recordings that found him gracefully injecting a major dose of high-powered swing into a collection of familiar melodies, with a few Travis originals thrown in for good measure. Like Atkins, there's an effortless grace to Merle Travis' guitar work that makes his remarkable technical skill all the more impressive, and as strong as his chops were, Travis' playing is always joyously musical, showing an understanding of the purity of the individual notes even when they fly by at breakneck speed. The Merle Travis Guitar sounds deceptively casual, as if he could have knocked this off in an afternoon, but there's no denying the artistry that he displays on this album or how fluidly this music glides by, and it's simply a joy to hear. This is manna from heaven for guitar fans, and great fun for anyone who enjoys hearing a top-notch musician at the height of his skills. [In 2009, the British reissue label Righteous Records released a new edition of The Merle Travis Guitar with eight selections from early 78s added as bonus tracks; the additional selections tend to focus on Travis' acoustic guitar style and feature vocal renditions of some of his best-known compositions (including "Sixteen Tons" and "Nine Pound Hammer"). If they change the tone of the album just a bit, they take nothing away from its charm and grace.]


Born: 29 November 1917 in Rosewood, KY

Genre: Country

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s

Merle Travis was virtually without peer as a guitarist and songwriter. A unique stylist, he was respected and prominent enough to have an instrumental style ("Travis picking") named after him, and only Chet Atkins even comes close to the influence that Travis had on the way the guitar is understood and played in country music. (Indeed, Atkins was initially signed to RCA to be that label's Merle Travis.) As a songwriter, he wasn't far behind, with originals such as "Sixteen Tons" crossing over as...
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The Merle Travis Guitar (Collection), Merle Travis
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