Although The Merle Travis Story — 24 Greatest Hits consists of re-recordings from the late ’70s, it gives a better sense of why Travis was important than Rhino’s The Best of Merle Travis. Unlike Rhino’s set, CMH concentrates on Travis’ guitar playing, which is why he was an important musician. Therefore, it gives a far better sense of why the guitarist was a revered, influential artist than the vocal hits of Rhino’s collection, even if the music was recorded late in his career. ~ Thom Owens, All Music Guide
From the track listing, CMH’s 1979 collection would appear to be the definitive, single-disc Travis set. Virtually all the major compositions and hits are here, and at 24 cuts, the offering is generous. But these are late-period recordings, tracked over two days in New Mexico, just four years before Travis’s death. Travis coproduced the sessions, and the results, if never equal to his classic Capitol sides from the ’40s and ’50s, are still well worth hearing. At 62 years old, Travis could still pick with agility and grace, and his electric and acoustic runs show the joy he must have felt revisiting his classics with friends Herb Remington, Johnny Gimble, and Curly Hollingsworth (among others) along for the ride. No fancy overdubs, no overproduction, just stone country music. Absenting any other overview of the Kentuckian’s best songs, this set suffices and charms in its own right. –Roy Kasten
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