Chet Atkins

The Night Atlanta Burned/The First Nashville Guitar Quartet

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Chet Atkins' extensive solo discography has often been justly criticized for containing too many throw-away albums and being prone to over-orchestrated arrangements. When the spirit moved him, however, he was capable of spearheading dignified, acoustic country-oriented records that showcased his virtuosic picking in tasteful contexts. Two of the most prominent examples are combined onto one disc on this Australian reissue, which according to the packaging marks their CD debut. From 1975, The Night Atlanta Burned -- actually credited to "The Atkins String Co." -- has Atkins heading a "classic country string quartet" that backs his own guitar with violin, viola, mandolin, and "acoustic guitar rhythm." In its low-key, intelligent blend of country, folk, bluegrass, and classical music, it sounds a little like a PBS soundtrack before its time, but in a good way. From 1979, The First Nashville Guitar Quartet has Atkins leading an all-acoustic guitar quartet, also including John Pell, Liona Boyd, and John Knowles. It too is a smooth but not too slick, eclectic blend of the same influences, though a little less daring, principally owing to the more conventional all-guitar arrangements. Those looking to cut to the chase and pick up only the most meaningful of Atkins '70s solo recordings could do worse than to start with this good-value reissue, even if it's not representative of much of what he did in his lengthy career.

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