Merle Travis

Country Music's Two Guitar Greats

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This 1964 album is indeed a meeting of two truly great country guitar pickers, Merle Travis and the lesser-known but equally dexterous Joe Maphis. While the material and interpretations might not be on the same superhuman plane as the guitar playing, the playing of both virtuosos is mighty good for sure on these dozen tunes. About half of the songs are Travis originals (as well as one Travis-Maphis collaboration, "Blast Off"), the program filled out by covers of traditional tunes, Chet Atkins' "Mainstreet Breakdown," and Bill Monroe's "Kentucky Waltz." They serve primarily as platforms for Travis and Maphis to weave their guitar magic around, and the pair tear off some truly dazzling runs of breakneck speed, especially on "Don't Let Your Deal Go Down," where the tempo almost sounds like it's stumbling over its own feet in an effort to keep up with itself. Wisely, however, it's not entirely a musical track meet, the pace varied with some slower and midtempo items that allow Travis and Maphis to play off each other with more room to breathe. It's a cheering high-spirited set in which the masters avoid showing off, Maphis using his trademark doubleneck guitar that allowed him to switch between a standard neck and a second one tuned an octave higher.

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