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Standing Room Only!

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Album Review

The Highwaymen's second album was released in late 1961, in the wake of their number one hit "Michael." They rose to the occasion with an LP that had more than its share of hits, including "The Gypsy Rover," and some superb album cuts, among them "Black Eyed Susie," "Three Jolly Rogues," and "Pollerita," which offered a delightful mix of delicacy and playfulness. "Wildwood Flower" also displays some extraordinarily nimble playing. The real jewel here, however, and a track whose presence should justify the importance of the group in the scheme of the early-'60s folk revival, is "Cotton Fields," a Leadbelly song that was previously little-known, even by the late singer/songwriter's estate or his publisher; the Highwaymen's smooth-tempo rendition, elegantly harmonized in its folky way, with its acoustic guitars and percussion upfront in the mix, was the B-side of a single issued in early 1962 and was flipped over by DJs around the country; it reached number 13 nationally and introduced the song to tens of millions of listeners (among them the Beach Boys, who recorded it six years later).


Formed: 1958 in Middletown, CT

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '60s

It's easy enough to dismiss the Highwaymen as representatives of a brand of folk music that has gone out of fashion, at least among the media tastemakers. Their kind of harmony singing, coupled with traditional songs and ballads, has seldom been written of in the decades since their heyday. What's more, their late-'50s collegiate origins, as a quintet whose purpose was to foster entertainment more than to raise consciousness, belonged more to the setting of the hootenanny than the anti-war teach-in...
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Standing Room Only!, The Highwaymen
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