Listen Up: Wednesday, August 08, 2007
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A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Chet Atkins and Les Paul


Chester & Lester
(RCA Nashville/Legacy)

By Tom Geddie

The reissue of Chester & Lester reminds us that superior pop, blues, and jazz guitar music is as smooth as it is hot. Two great players, Chet Atkins and Les Paul, got together in the studio to talk and play off each other on this classic 1976 country guitar album with jazz overtones.
The entire record is so relaxed and seamless that it seems as if an eavesdropper turned on a tape recorder and just released what he captured unedited. But we all know differently. Chester & Lester was recorded on May 6-7, 1975, and the four bonus tracks here include an alternate version of “Caravan” and the rehearsal version of the “Moonglow/Picnic” medley.
Backed by a rhythm section of Nashville session players, Atkins and Paul clearly had a good time in the studio.
“Caravan,” the country version of the Duke Ellington standard, manages to sway and charge; “Birth of the Blues” is a pleasant, bright stroll; and “Lover Come Back to Me” is upbeat rather than, as the title may suggest, rueful.
In addition to Chester & Lester, RCA-Nashville/Legacy also has fairly recently issued a two-disc, 40-song set, The Essential Chet Atkins, which spans pretty much everything between “Guitar Blues” (1946) and “Big Foot” (1995). All three CDs — Chester & Lester, plus the two from Essential — clearly demonstrate his cross-genre appeal. He’s been cited as an influence by guitarists as varied as Duane Eddy, Vince Gill, George Harrison, Mark Knopfler, and George Benson. Atkins’ own major influence was Paul. Of Chester and Lester, made 10 years after the elder musician’s withdrawal from touring, Paul said, “It was a great marriage because we were very different people, probably the two best-known guitarists in the world, and both of us had a lot to say.” Amen.


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