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In Boston, 1959

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Album Review

This warm live recording from 1959 finds Merle Travis all alone on his acoustic six-string, the perfect accompaniment to his robust voice. Splitting time between instrumentals and vocal numbers like "Dark as a Dungeon," "John Henry," and the ubiquitous "Sixteen Tons," Travis' singing and legendary picking are pristinely recorded, alternating between being darkly chilling and joyously grinning. It may seem like a foot race to have 22 tracks in 43 minutes, but nearly every tune is introduced by Travis with a quick story or humorous anecdote, so the 16 actual songs are each given ample time. Blurring the line between country and folk, Travis was never in better form, and his songs are as timeless in the 21st century as they were when they were written.


Born: 30 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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In Boston, 1959, Merle Travis
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