Tommy Emmanuel c.g.p.
Live at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Ballarat, Australia – DVD
The Mystery - CD
Following the success of Only and Endless Road, Favored Nations Acoustic is releasing two new projects from Tommy Emmanuel c.g.p. (certified guitar player): a DVD entitled Live at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Ballarat, Australia, followed by the CD The Mystery.
A finger style guitarist inspired by the legendary Chet Atkins (who became one of Emmanuel’s biggest fans and gave him the title c.g.p.), he can simultaneously play multiple parts, much like a pianist does with his left and right hands. But his astounding technique isn’t just for show; Emmanuel uses it to organically blend folk, country, jazz, and other influences in his highly personal, emotive compositions.
Born in Australia, Emmanuel began playing the guitar by ear at the age of four, he started his professional career at the age of six with his older brother, Phil. Emmanuel’s career really took off, though, when as a teenager he left home and moved to Sydney in the 1960s. There, he quickly established himself as an in-demand session player, recording thousands of commercials and backing up such noted pop artists as Air Supply and Roberta Flack. Emmanuel went on to play with huge stars Eric Clapton, Joe Walsh, Stevie Wonder, and Les Paul. The consummate musician was voted Rolling Stone (Australia) magazine's "Most Popular Guitarist" for two consecutive years and has earned four Platinum and Gold albums in his native homeland. The Australian guitarist even recorded with his hero, Chet Atkins, on the Grammy-nominated album The Day Finger Pickers Took Over the World. But as talented as he is accompanying others, it is on his own that Emmanuel really shines, as eager concert audiences worldwide—from Croatia to the U.S.—can attest to.
While Emmanuel has enjoyed touring the world, he has by no means forsaken his eager Australian audiences. In November of 2005, he embarked on a regional tour, giving a particularly brilliant performance in Ballarat, in the region of Victoria, at Her Majesty’s Theatre —Australia’s best-preserved performing arts hall, which has been in continuous use since 1875. The show was captured on the Live at Her Majesty’s Theatre DVD, on which the hall’s naturally pristine acoustics are enhanced with DTS 5.1 channel surround sound. Directed by Mark Bayly, it was shot with multiple cameras and is presented in widescreen format, so that the home viewer can enjoy a front-row experience. As a bonus, in between the songs, Emmanuel discusses his music and his life.
A must for any Emmanuel fan, the DVD offers an ample overview of the guitarist’s finest songs and interpretations, including works found on the previous Favored Nations Acoustic release Endless Road and new compositions from his upcoming CD. From the blazing bluegrass runs of “Tall Fiddler”; to a colorful take on “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” with its dazzling harp-style harmonics; to “Walls,” a beautiful duet sung with fiancée Elizabeth Watkins, Live at Her Majesty’s Theatre is a stylistically diverse yet cohesive set of tunes in all. And Emmanuel is especially proud of the DVD. “I think it showcases my entire musical life; you really get to see my different influences coming together quite nicely. And, being back in Australia made for a truly inspired evening,” he says.
The follow up studio release The Mystery was inspired by Emmanuel’s travels with Watkins; each of the album’s compositions is a musical snapshot or sojourn. The album’s spirited opener, “Cantina Senese,” has some delicious mandolin-like lines and evokes the feelings of being at a special restaurant. Emmanuel explains, “Cantina Senese—which is located in Livorno, Tuscany, near Florence—is a very interesting place. You walk through the front door and into another dimension: the smell of garlic, coffee, and cigarettes, and the buzz of people talking combine to create a unique, magical experience. I tried to capture this ambience in a composition.”
“Lewis & Clark,” which appears on both the DVD and CD, with its “cowboy chords” and lilting folk melody, is a tribute to the American expedition of the early 1800s. Of the track, Emmanuel says, “I used overtones of the Old West to tell a story of the great unknown, of an untouched expanse of land. The tune also deals with the interaction of the explorers and the Native Americans.”
The meditative title track, meanwhile, has a less geographical theme. Its wistful chords and ringing arpeggios address wonder at the universe, at the essence of life. “‘The Mystery’ is all about God’s love,” says Emmanuel, “about human lives and how we all fit together; it’s about the things we see—and the things we don’t.”
“The Diggers’ Waltz” came from a dream of Emmanuel’s in which an elderly soldier, while preparing to be honored for his wartime deeds, sees the ghost of his wife and dances with her. The track’s first section is borrowed from military funeral music. “This is only my second waltz,” says Emmanuel. “A ‘digger’ was a soldier who prepared trenches in World Wars I and II. Nowadays, digger is a term of endearment—an old friend, an honest, straight-up guy. So, this song has that sort of feel-good vibe to it. And the dancing is where the waltz comes in.”
“Walls” is a song penned by the Grammy-nominated duo of Pam Rose and Mary Ann Kennedy—whose tunes have been recorded by Reba McEntire, Martina McBride, and others—along with co-writer Randy Sharp. Emmanuel sings and plays this warm, optimistic song with Watkins. And what sounds like a full band is actually all Emmanuel, who’s also quite an accomplished drummer. He says, “We first recorded that song with just me and a guitar, then we added Lizzie. But then it seemed like it needed something more, so I overdubbed bass and drums. It turned out very nice; I love the song’s beautiful message—that there is hope for love, but some walls must fall in order for it to succeed.”
Not surprisingly, Emmanuel regards The Mystery as his greatest work to date. Indeed, the album’s many moods, idioms, and references—to say nothing of its stunning virtuosity—fully demonstrate the complex though accessible musician that Emmanuel is. The modest c.g.p. puts it best: “I don’t usually listen to my own work; I tend to record something, and then move on. But I’ve been enjoying the album a lot, as it’s deeper and more special than anything I’ve ever done. I think that’s a good sign.”
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