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As someone who's primarily into rock and roll, you might find it odd that one of my big influences as a guitarist is Chet Atkins. I've never much been into the country twang, but in fact, it is due to the incredible picking of Atkins (along with Jimmy Page and a few others), that I can finger pick and hybrid pick at all. I find that Chet Atkins is one of the more overlooked guitarists by younger folks (people like me actually), but his playing is beyond stellar, into the insanely good category in my opinion.
To give people who may not be as familiar with his guitar work (I don't at all consider myself anything close to expert, just a fan), I thought I'd share a few of video clips of Chet Atkins tearing it up unlike any other.
The first is Atkins playing "Black Mountain Rag", and the second is "Dark Eyes", both played with minimal backing.
You know what I love about watch Chet play his Gretch, his picking and style is so subtle. I know when I first saw him play I thought that I could play those licks with a little practice. Boy was I wrong... There is such a subtle complexity to his picking, his chord work and overall style that I don't think I could ever replicate it. Plus, although both of these songs start out simply enough, there are these speedy little flourishes in both that Atkins pulls off with ease, like he was just changing chords.
Something you Zeppelin fans might find interesting as well, is that I'm sure that Mr. Atkins was more than a little influence on the afore mentioned Mr. Page as I recognize a few of Atkin's licks in some of the folksier Zeppelin numbers, and I believe there's a live performance of "Bronyraur Stomp" where page throws in the opening licks of "Black Mountain Rag"... or at least it sounded like that to my ear.
Both songs also have a folksy delicacy despite their complexity that I really like, but it's in their execution that they really shine. Few guitarists have the same style and ease as Chet Atkins.
I highly recommend guitarists of all styles to check out the work of Mr. Chet Atkins (and non guitarists too) as I think we can all learn a little something about great music and musicianship.