Personnel: Chet Atkins (guitar); Bobby Thompson (guitar, banjo); Paul Yandell (guitar, ukulele); Jerry Shook (guitar); Weldon Myrick (steel guitar); Johnny Gimble (fiddle); Charlie McCoy (harmonica); Hargus "Pig" Robbins (piano); Larrie Londin, Buddy Harman (drums); Farrell Morris (percussion).
Liner Note Authors: Ian McFarlane; Johnny Cash; Bob Tubert.
Raven's 2012 two-fer pairs two early-'70s albums from Chet Atkins: 1971's Pickin' My Way and 1974's Superpickers. Pickin' My Way followed 1970's Me & Jerry, a duet album with Jerry Reed that was a genuine hit, going all the way to 13 on the country charts. Reed steps into a co-producer's chair for Pickin' My Way and the record shares some tonal and structural similarities with its predecessors: once again there are covers of Paul Simon ("The Boxer") and the Beatles (solo McCartney in the form of "Junk") lying amid the standards. Despite the presence of "Black Mountain Rag," "Wabash Blues," and "Floatin' Down to Cotton Town," most of these standards come from Tin Pan Alley, not Tennessee, suggesting that this might be a somewhat sleepy affair, but that's not the case. Certainly, Pickin' My Way is mellow but it's also nimble and shaded, making it a nice blend of Music Town virtuosity and middle-of-the-road easy listening. Superpickers is a different beast, designed as something of a super jam session with a bunch of Nashville cats, including Johnny Gimble, Charlie McCoy, Weldon Myrick, Hargus Robbins, and many others. This shift in cast results in a shift in sensibility, bringing Atkins closer to the definition of an old-fashioned pickers match where the guys all sit around, emphasizing the playing instead of either the tune or feel. Superpickers is still plenty smooth and relaxed -- it was cut near the end of this kind of crossover country easy listening -- but it's so solipsistic it's often straight-up cornball, whether it's the goofy organ and horns on the opening "Paramaribo" or the joshing around on "Fiddlin' Around" or even the mock-blues opening riff on "Just Another Rag." Once the crew all settles in, however, this flows as sweet and easy as a backyard creek, a bottle of bourbon, or a jar of molasses -- choose your poison, it's all here for you. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine