This is not going to be an elaborate and insightful review of this album or Atkins. What can be said? He is the consummate musician, an amazing and versatile guitarist. He doesn’t pretend to be relevant or important or socially significant or insightful. He simply entertains by producing dazzling guitar. And, unlike, say, Les Paul, he is never merely showing off. Whatever he does, no matter how virtuosic, adds to the musicality of the piece.
He’s also almost single-handedly responsible, as A & R Man for RCA in the 1950s, for the Nashville sound.
This album is one of the few LPs that my parents had in the house when I was a kid. I listened to it a lot. It was produced by RCA to show off their high-fidelity technology. It also is considered one of Atkins’s best albums qua albums. The other one that comes to mind is the 1970s album Chester and Lester he made with Les Paul. Atkins influenced many guitarists, including George Harrison and Mark Knopfler.
Atkins’s usual technique a three-finger picking style with an alternating bass, palming the bass strings. He could use it so creatively and with such variety even within a song that it doesn’t get boring. It can almost seem like a walking bassline. A great example is “Ain’t Misbehavin’”. Atkins is “country,” but he has so many other influences, especially jazz. He does many other rhythms and moods, such as waltzes (“Shadow Waltz”) and Latin beats (“Anna”). He has lots of sweet harmonies.
And he’s fast.
Only some of Hi-Fi in Focus is available on YouTube. None on Spotify, but I found this site whereon you can listen to the whole thing.
Here is “El Cumbachero.”
One of my favorites is “Walk, Don’t Run”.
Here is the Ventures' version (with a wet guitar sound).
I don’t think one would score Atkins high as a classical guitarist, but he does have good taste.
Speaking of Knopfler, here is a funny duet between him and Atkins. Atkin’s voice is very recognizable.
I still have the LP.
—Robert Gotcher is a theologian from Milwaukee, where he and his wife have been raising their seven children, five of whom are out of the house, more or less. He is a recovering Beatlemaniac.