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Eclectic Guitar

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Album Review

The twenty 1954-1956 instrumentals on this compilation date from the time Chet Atkins first started to receive serious acclaim as a commercial recording artist, with his version of "Mister Sandman" (included here) becoming a hit. He'd been recording for almost a decade by the time he cut these tracks, however, and his experienced virtuosity shows in this collection. Despite his image as a patriarch of country music, as a solo artist Atkins was truly an eclectic without allegiance to any specific genre, and the pieces here are really more jazz-pop in nature than they are country. A not inconsiderable classical influence shows up as well (especially in the interpretations of Chopin's "Minute Waltz," Brahms' "Waltz in A Flat," and François-Joseph Gossec's "Gavotte in D"), and there are also nods to Latin music ("Malaguena"). The constants on these recordings — most of which are essentially just Atkins and his electric guitar, although a few have full-band backing — are his relentlessly reverberant, pungent tone, as well as his skill in weaving counterpoint melodies together on his instrument. Those qualities make these performances, in some senses, more interesting to guitar students and players than to general music fans. It's easy to hear how the likes of George Harrison, say, might have sweated over learning these licks as a way of sharpening their own skills, but the execution's a little too polite for the cuts to stand as exciting and innovative work in their own right. Still, that execution is uniformly tasteful, the calm mastery of difficult licks admirable, and that full guitar tone immediately distinctive (and, for the mid-'50s, quite pioneering in expanding the sonic dimensions of the electric guitar). All of those attributes add up to a nicely listenable collection, though Atkins' best session work (such as what he played shortly afterward on records by the Everly Brothers) was more creative and exciting.

Biography

Born: 20 June 1924 in Luttrell, TN

Genre: Country

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Without Chet Atkins, country music may never have crossed over into the pop charts in the '50s and '60s. Although he recorded hundreds of solo records, Atkins' largest influence came as a session musician and a record producer. During the '50s and '60s, he helped create the Nashville...
Full bio