Tommy Emmanuel, four-time winner of Australia’s Best Guitarist Award, has helped bring the art of Rock guitar down under to a higher awareness by bringing a sense of Jazz improvisation into a mix that also includes Blues, Country, Rock, Classical, and Spanish music. After years as a popular sideman and ace songwriter, he carved out his own style as a solo artist, releasing award-winning albums and singles.
He is often regarded as one of the greatest acoustic guitarists of all time. He has shown a mastery and affinity for both electric and acoustic axes, and has been singled out by the likes of notable musicians such as Chet Atkins and Todd Rundgren, who called him an innovator on the instrument. The title CGP, or Certified Guitar Player, was bestowed on Tommy Emmanuel by Chet Atkins and is held by only 3 other guitarists in the world – John Knowles, Jerry Reed and Steve Warriner.
Anytime you talk to any of his fans, whether musicians or civilians, invariably they will speak of not one but two qualities that define Tommy Emmanuel’s greatness.
The first, predictably, is his extraordinary guitar playing. Considered by those in the know to be among this planet’s greatest guitarists, his playing is simply miraculous, as it would take three musicians, or more, to do what Tommy does solo. Who else, for example, when playing “Day Tripper,” can lay down the rhythm part, dig into the riff and sing the melody all at once on just one acoustic guitar?
Which brings us to the other aspect of his music always mentioned, and without which the first might not be as powerful or as infectiously appealing: the joy. Yes, joy. Because it’s one thing to play these multi-dimensional arrangements flawlessly on an acoustic guitar. But to do it with that smile of the ages, that evidence of authentic, unbridled delight, is an irresistible invitation to feel his music as deeply as he does.
“The joy, he says, “is there always because I’m chasing it through music. Seeing the surprise in peoples’ eyes is worth living and working for… I can’t help but play to the people with all my heart, which is overflowing with joy of being in that moment that I’ve worked all my life for. And here it is!”
Although his expression is instrumental, he comes to the guitar much more like a vocalist, positively singing melodies through the strings. He inhabits the tunes he performs, delivering every nuance and turn of phrase. His own songs are also illuminated always with lyrical melodies that go right to the heart, such as his beautiful ode to his daughter, “Angelina,” or his great “story without words,” “Lewis & Clark.” That they resonate so deeply without words makes sense, as words only go so far. But music, coming from a genuine and joyful source, can go so much farther. Now with The Best of Tommysongs, he brings us a complete collection of his own songs, all rich with ripe melodicism and rendered with joy in real-time.
Richard Smith is an English guitarist specializing in the fingerstyle guitar tradition of Merle Travis, Chet Atkins, and Jerry Reed. His career achievements include being named the 2001 National Fingerstyle Guitar Champion and inducted into the National Thumbpickers Hall of Fame in 2009. He has played with Chet Atkins, Les Paul, Nato Lima, Boots Randolph, Tommy Emmanuel, John Jorgenson, Marcel Dadi, Tommy Tedesco, Joe Pass, Biréli Lagrène, Mark O’Connor, Sam Bush, Stuart Duncan, Martin Taylor, Jorge Morel, Earl Klugh, Suzy Bogguss, Victor Wooten, John Cowan and many more.
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