Chet Atkins’ music was inspired by Chet’s admiration for the guitar playing of Merle Travis. Travis used a banjo thumbpick and the tip of his index finger to create complex musical patterns. Because he could not believe the music he was hearing could be achieved by thumb and index finger, Chet played using his middle finger as well. Chet’s career as a guitarist began in 1942 and was never completely overshadowed by his phenomenal success as a record producer.
Neck And Neck is an album that was released in 1990 and featured Chet with Mark Knopfler, a guitarist who often cited Chet Atkins as one of his main influences. The album also featured, among others, Floyd Cramer, a Nashville piano player with a distinctive style and a long and distinguished recording career.
The tracks on the album are:
“Poor Boy Blues” (Paul Kennerley)
“Sweet Dreams” (Don Gibson)
“There’ll Be Some Changes Made” (Billy Higgins, Benton Overstreet with additional lyrics by Margaret Archer, Chet Atkins and Mark Knopfler)
“Just One Time” (Gibson)
“So Soft, Your Goodbye” (Randy Goodrum)
“Yakety Axe” (Boots Randolph, James Rich, lyrics by Merle Travis)
“Tears” (Stephane Grappelli, Django Reinhardt)
“Tahitian Skies” (Ray Flacke)
“I’ll See You in My Dreams” (Isham Jones, Gus Kahn)
“The Next Time I’m in Town” (Mark Knopfler)
Mark Knopfler had become known as a guitar virtuoso thanks to his work with the band, Dire Straits and his music for several movies. As a fingerstyle guitarist, this album gave him the chance to get some street cred playing with one of the originators of electric fingerstyle guitar.
Neck And Neck is an album for guitar players who like to listen to guitar music. It is not showy but a showcase for the musicianship of Chet Atkins and Mark Knopfler and the guitar music they loved. Although Chet Atkins made his name as a record producer for many Nashville artists, he is clearly not a natural-born singer, but Knopfler gives the singing on Neck And Neck the benefit of his gritty vocals.
Neck And Neck is a recording that probably introduced Mark Knopfler fans to Chet Atkins and vice versa. The selection of material is first class with an old Chet Atkins favorite, “Yakety Axe” given words by Merle Travis, the lyrical “Tears” by Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli, plus a Mark Knopfler original, “The Next Time I’m In Town”. The tune, “Sweet Dreams” made famous by Patsy Cline and the classic “I’ll See You In My Dreams” make Neck And Neck an album for real music lovers.