Chet Atkins: A Life in Music
MPI Home Video // Unrated // $19.98 // February 27, 2007
Review by Thomas Spurlin | posted February 5, 2007
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Most people who've heard of Chet Atkins know about his skills with the guitar. It's very true; this man could undoubtedly pick on a guitar. The stupefying nature of his uniquely marvelous talent is what makes him one massively influential musician. However, one thing that might remain unknown to those who've heard of Chet Atkins is his skill with producing albums. It's with this second innate quality that crafted him as a legend and one of the most renowned individuals in music. Chet Atkins: A Life In Music makes an effort to pack this insurmountable influence within less than an hour. Though successful as a relatively lightweight honor to one of music's greats, A Life In Music does fully illustrate his modest, strong impact on numerous other influential musicians.

The Documentary:

From his poverty-stricken youth in Eastern Tennessee, Chet Atkins didn't have much to work with. However, he used what he had to an incredible degree. Starting as a backdrop musician, Chet honed his skills and developed this magical talent: playing both rhythm and lead on the guitar. Not only that, but Chet made it look so incredibly easy. Strangely enough, bopping around performing from band-to-band (some with quite impressive names included) was enough to set a spark in Atkins' career.

There's so many ways Chet aided in molding modern music. Chet Atkins: A Life In Music takes that inspiration and gives it a strong, vibrant voice. Expressing pride in his skills seems like it was never easy for Chet. Therefore, audible praise in his name pouring from the folks who were directly impacted by his talent is worth its weight in gold. Numerous stars get their kind words in about Chet, from Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson to Waylon Jenning and Les Paul. A documentary with focused time on his story, his performances, and his influence on modern music could fill hours upon hours and probably never grow old. However, included within a brief time span, this documentary succeeds wonderfully to establish Chet's greatness.

Several great performances that exhibit his style of playing accompany this production. Many of the more entertaining clips are from his early days when he expressed an equal amount of talent as he does with years and years under his belt. However, the duets included are very impressive. Though brief, to witness Chet Atkins perform with the likes of Earl Klugh and Les Paul is breathtaking. These performances are nuggets of absolute joy.

Though considered a "special feature", a small addition to the documentary called "Picking With Mr. Guitar" is also included. Within this piece, Chet's style of guitar picking is discussed and emulated candidly by numerous musicians. This assortment of conversations is as entertaining as the documentary it accompanies.

Chet Atkins: A Life In Music is a skim-the-top overview into the man as a performer and as a producer. However, though brief, the rich time spent with Chet and the impressive line up of musicians influenced by him is candid, insightful, and fun. This documentary is a great way to learn a little bit about Mr. Guitar and how he transformed the world of music.

The DVD:

Chet Atkins: A Life in Music comes in a standard DVD keepcase with sharp cover art and disc art. Included is a DVD brochure.

The Video:

Presented in a full-frame image, the interview segments looked great. Though a little blurry at times, most of the interviews were pretty crisp with detail. With the footage, some of the clips have been restored, while others were left speckled and very dusty. The aged look, however, does add a bit of charm to the piece.

The Audio:

The audio quality seemed clear, even during aged portions of the production. Several of the performances require intricate concentration on his incredibly delicate picking skills. With this audio, all the notes appeared relatively clear. Plus, all of the interview dialogue was very clean and easy to hear. Only an English language track with Englush subtitles are available.

The Extras:

Other than the "Picking with Mr. Guitar" portion that seems like an extension of the actual documentary, nothing else is available.

Final Thoughts:

Chet Atkins' story is a Cinderella tale of sorts. From the backwoods of Tennessee where he developed his rich abilities with a cheap guitar, he pulled himself from this rut and firmly planted himself in the music industry without much debate on the matter. Throughout the years, this talented determination and impeccable aural sense crafted one of the most cherished, talented, and above-all modest men ever to hold a guitar. Within the run-time of this documentary, the influence of Chet Atkins rings clear amidst an endless roster of individuals who'd claim their life wouldn't be the same without him. Chet Atkins: A Life in Music is a concentrated and sincere documentary that comes easily Recommended.

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