Chet Atkins was probably the most influential country guitarist of the twentieth century — and one of the best guitarists, period. His pickin’ style and the clarity of each note were legendary. His long career as an instrumentalist and producer exerted a huge influence in the field of country music from the fifties through the seventies.
He was a perfectionist, especially when it came to his chosen instrument. He developed his own award for excellence on the guitar — the abbreviation c.g.p., which stands for “Certified Guitar Player." He only bestowed the title four times during his career. John Knowles, Jerry Reed, Tommy Emmanuel and Steve Wariner were the recipients of what was considered a great honor.
Steve Wariner, who is now beginning the fourth decade of his distinguished career, has issued eighteen studio albums and placed at least fifty singles on the U.S. country charts. He has finally released a fitting tribute to Atkins, his mentor and friend who passed away in 2001.
If you like guitar music and especially guitar pickin’ country music then My Tribute To Chet Atkins is an album for you. Wariner has a style that is similar to Atkins. The focus is on the clarity of each note and he is able to produce a tone that is second to none. The album is a combination of covers and originals but all evoke the sound and memory of the master.
With the first two tracks, Wariner establishes his sound. His original composition, “Leavin’ Luttrell,” as well as his take on the traditional American folk song, “John Henry,” are basic in their presentation. He is backed by only a muted bass and percussion, which allows the focus to be squarely on his guitar playing. He begins to expand the sound with the next two tracks. “(Back Home Again In) Indiana” was recorded by Atkins in 1954 and Wariner remains true to the original as he shares center stage with a fiddle sound. “Leona,” which is a tribute to Atkins' wife, makes use of some strings that create a full sound.
In concert, Chet Atkins would always play a medley of songs he had produced. Wariner suitably presents his own “Producer’s Medley” here, which is a mix of eight pop and country hits. The center of the medley is “The Three Bells,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” “Java,” and “Let It Be Me,” which is smooth and at times subtle as his guitar plays in front of more strings and a piano. He finishes with a quick tribute to old friend Jerry Reed on “When You’re Hot You’re Hot.”
The last two tracks contain the album’s only vocals. The better of the two is “Chet’s Guitar,” which is a poignant tribute to his old friend as he sings about stealing licks from him.
My Tribute To Chet Atkins is a heartfelt and superior release by one of the best country guitarists alive today. Somewhere, Chet Atkins is smiling.