Chet Atkins

Chet Picks on the Grammys

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So many gallons of ink have been spilled singing the praises of Chet Atkins that it's difficult for reviewers to find new ways to describe the quality that made his guitar style so special. There had been other good pickers before Atkins. Merle Travis used a similar style earlier, called "Travis picking," but was also known as the singer of classics like "Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette." Joe Maphis, a contemporary of Atkins, worshiped at the alter of speedy licks, trading individual style for "fire on the strings." Atkins' style, both urban and refined, was always identifiable. This was true whether he was playing holiday songs or the Beatles. Chet Picks on the Grammys collects 13 instrumentals that won Grammys between 1967 and 1996. Even over such a long period with disparate changes in production, Atkins' combination of chords and thumb technique remained distinct. There are a number of choice items here and many will be familiar as hits by other artists. "Snowbird" harks back to 1971 and "Ready for the Times to Get Better" to 1981. As though to prove he wasn't just a country boy with a guitar, Atkins also tackles "The Entertainer" and offers a fascinating rendering of Duke Ellington's "Caravan." Chet Picks on the Grammys offers a good overview of Atkins' instrumental work and a fine excuse for reviewers to spill a few more gallons of ink singing the praises of Mister Guitar.

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