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Tommy Emmanuel: Certified Legend

Issue #57

Tommy’s subtlety and tastefulness blends with Amanda Shires’ vocal and fiddle playing to breathe new life into Madonna’s 80's pop hit “Borderline,” and Rodney Crowell’s “Looking Forward to the Past” could have easily topped the country charts in another era, with Emmanuel's propulsive rhythm supporting Crowell’s lyrics while his tasty lead playing weave in and out.
Jonathan Graham

Certified Legend

The incomparable, Tommy Emmanuel released his latest record, 'Accomplice One' earlier this year to the delight of fans the world over. His sixth studio release in only three years; the new album is a 16-track collaborative project featuring guest artists the likes of Mark Knopfler, J.D. Simo, Jason Isbell, Ricky Skaggs and many more. Guitar Interactive Magazine caught up with Tommy during his latest visit to the UK to get a little insight into the creation of 'Accomplice One,' as well as capturing two exclusive performances of tracks from the record, filmed at the Handal & Hendrix museum in London.

Tommy Emmanuel is no stranger to musical diversity; he can switch from authentic country-blues to tender and yet devastating ballads (and even some face-melting rock shred) in the space of a pick stroke. That rare ability has maybe never been more utilised than in 'Accomplice One.' The tracks are a combination of new takes on indelible classics, and brand new originals from Tommy and Co. Produced by Emmanuel, (who is one of only five musicians handpicked by his mentor, Chet Atkins, as a "Certified Guitar Player") 'Accomplice One' opens up with “Deep River Blues” featuring the Grammy-winning Americana raconteur Jason Isbell. Country/bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs lends his mandolin and unmistakable vocal talents to “Song and Dance Man,” a chronicle of a life lived for the next show.

Tommy’s subtlety and tastefulness blends with Amanda Shires’  vocal and fiddle playing to breathe new life into Madonna’s 80's pop hit “Borderline,” and Rodney Crowell’s “Looking Forward to the Past” could have easily topped the country charts in another era, with Emmanuel's propulsive rhythm supporting Crowell’s lyrics while his tasty lead playing weave in and out.

On “You Don’t Want to Get You One of Those,” a smooth vocal and acoustic duet with Dire Straits’ legend Mark Knopfler, there was seemingly a third, invisible presence in the studio – the late great, Chet Atkins.

On speaking about the collaboration, Emmanuel stated, “Mark and I both learned so much from Chet. He was a hero and a mentor to each of us, and we’ve tried to bring his spirit forward into the future in our own playing. This song that Mark wrote captured Chet’s sense of humour so well and I had the time of my life in the studio with him conjuring the master as we laid it down.”

While this marked the first time Tommy had collaborated with Knopfler, the album also features a few of Tommy’s longtime fellow road warriors, who have travelled with him on buses and planes around the world on tour over the many years. “Djangology” is a gypsy jazz treat cut live in Havana, Cuba with Frank Vignola and Vinny Raniolo and “Rachel’s Lullaby” reunites Tommy with Hawaiian ukulele master Jake Shimabukuro. The latter, written for Tommy’s youngest daughter, continues his tradition of finding inspiration from an evergreen source and the love of his family.

“It has been such an honour to work with some of the greatest artists I know, and some of the most inspiring people in music today,” says Emmanuel. “I wanted to record an album of duets that could showcase my love of many styles, the challenge of rearranging some classic songs, and share the fun of total improvisation with players who do it on a level that we all marvel at!”

Since he and his brother Phil (who sadly passed away last month) taught themselves to play as toddlers, the guitar has been Tommy’s real first language. Emmanuel is more articulate on his signature Melbourne-made Maton acoustics than most people are with words, and while thousands of fans have spent years trying to dissect Tommy’s immaculate technique, for him, it’s clearly only the delivery system. Tommy's approach has always been song and emotion first, with the music the embodiment of his soulful spirit, sense of hope and his love for entertaining. Having said that, Tommy in no way dismisses the Guitar Player awards, the Grammy nominations, the numerous magazine polls naming him the greatest acoustic guitarist alive and certainly not the CGP. However, for Tommy Emmanuel, the greatest reward seems to be always the same; to make the next great record, and to perform the next great show.

“When I was a kid, I wanted to be in show business. Now I only want to be in the happiness business. I make music, you get happy... That’s a good job.”

'Accomplice One' is the first album released on Mascot label Group Players Club. A label that is set to be home to great and free-spirited guitar music and collaborations.

'Accomplice One' Tracklist: 

  1. Deep River Blues (feat. Jason Isbell)
  2. Song And Dance Man (feat. Ricky Skaggs)
  3. Saturday Night Shuffle (feat. Jorma Kaukonen & Pat Bergeson)
  4. Wheelin' & Dealin' (feat. J.D. Simo & Charlie Cushman)
  5. C-Jam Blues (feat. David Grisman & Bryan Sutton)
  6. (Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay (feat. J.D. Simo)
  7. Borderline (feat. Amanda Shires)
  8. You Don't Want To Get You One Of Those (feat. Mark Knopfler)
  9. Keepin' It Reel (feat. Clive Carroll)
  10. Looking Forward To The Past (feat. Rodney Crowell)
  11. Purple Haze (feat. Jerry Douglas)
  12. Rachel's Lullaby (feat. Jake Shimabukuro)
  13. Djangology (feat. Frank Vignola & Vinny Raniolo)
  14. Watson Blues (feat. David Grisman & Bryan Sutton)
  15. Tittle Tattle (feat. Jack Pearson)
  16. The Duke's Message (feat. Suzy Bogguss)

For more information on Tommy Emmanual, please visit:

tommyemmanuel.com

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