Chet Atkins is too easily overlooked in many modern guitar conversations. Or those who do talk about him are only throwing his name out there because they've heard his name somewhere or read it in a magazine. Heck, even my wife asks me why I'm listening to elevator music when I'm jamming some Chet (no, I didn't make her get out of the truck).
What people need to realize is that this guy defined guitar hero. Not for modern music. He defined it. Period. The first and the ultimate. There were plenty of jazz guitarists that pre-date him, but Chet had the good fortune to make music in an era when guitar was beginning to dominate his (and other) genres.
Beyond his obvious skill and natural talent, the list of guitarists who list Chet Atkins as their primary influence is enormous. While you may find his music "dated" or, if you're crazy, "wussy" then you really need to think long and hard about just who's the progenitor of that flash-in-the-pan artist that you're listening to.
I chose "Winter Walkin'" because one, it's my favorite Chet Atkins song, and two, it's a great example of his skill.
Click on the link below and follow along with the dissection:
The opens with a "One ... two ... three" set of notes and wastes no time getting right into the meat of the song. Which is good because it's a pretty short tune. The great thing about this is that from the opening, there is no doubt that this song is a winter tune. The key is similar to many Christmas-y songs. The light melody gives one the impression of gentle frolicking.
At 45 seconds, the theme changes. If you imagine lyrics, you can almost picture that this part of the song is where they give council about not playing outside too long. Like the intro is: We're playing and singing and having a good time. This short interlude is: But we have to get inside and get our hot chocolate because it's freaking cold out here.
Near the 1-minute mark, he slowly brings you back into the main theme and reintroduces it with a beautifully slick chord at 1:04.
We go back into the main melody but this time there's a harmony element there as well. It's such a subtle but effective touch. Gives you a great deal of anticipation for the climax. At 1:48, that point hits and it's such a natural progression, you feel it's only right to end here, even though you might restart the song as soon as it's over.
The song wraps with a very classy chord progression from the melody.
This song is available on the Guitar Country/More of That Guitar Country CD through Amazon.