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Music Review: Tommy Emmanuel – The Mystery

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Having appointed myself the arbiter of how music relates to geezers, I feel a heavy responsibility to steer my cohorts in the right direction when I spot something I think they'd like (or warn them away, in some cases).

Recently I received an advance copy of a new CD titled The Mystery by Australian guitarist Tommy Emmanuel, and as I listened to it I was reminded of that old adage about modern art, which I'll paraphrase: I might not know much about acoustic guitar but I know what I like. There is a lot to like here, and I'm living proof that you don't have to be an expert to enjoy Tommy's many talents, especially his skill at playing multiple parts simultaneously, which is nothing short of amazing.

If you're already into an appreciation of the great guitarists, then you probably know that Tommy is a world-renowned and award-winning member of that elite group, and if so then you can rest assured that he continues to impress on his new album.

One of Tommy's influences (and a mentor) was a picker we've all listened to countless times through the years, Chet Atkins, and years ago he famously gave Tommy the "certified guitar picker" designation. Chet and Tommy collaborated often, and their album The Day Finger Pickers Took Over The World was a big success.

Tommy has also appeared with Eric Clapton, Stevie Wonder, and even Les Paul, and lists a number of others as influences, including Jerry Reed (much under-appreciated as a guitarist) and Django Reinhardt from the early days of jazz guitar. (Not to go off on too wide a tangent, but if you've only heard Reinhardt on the more well-known songs where his guitar is dominated by Grapelli's fiddle, keep looking for those that present a truer appreciation of this pioneer.)

All but one of the songs on this album are instrumentals, and that one – "Walls", featuring Tommy teaming up with his lady, Liz Watkins – was probably my least favorite, but maybe that's just me. There's nothing wrong with their voices, but the song just seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I enjoyed most of the songs enormously, especially "Lewis & Clark", and a tune that's almost Segovian called "Cantina Senese". My favorite of all, though, was probably the one that I'm posting as a sample. It's called "That's The Spirit". Enjoy the sound of this acoustic guitar virtuoso.

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  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Nice Review… I would have to say that Tommy’s music is for anyone who loves virtuosity without pretentiousness. Seeing how I am only 30, I love his songs and his stage presence.( I did a review of his new DVD). If you like his stuff, you probably already know of Ken Bonfield and Will Ackerman but those are two other artists that I highly suggest. Plus, Michael Manring takes that art form to the bass!!


  • duane

    He obviously knows how to play. But the clip is a little too “happy” for my tastes. A little too “backgroundy.” I like “pretentiousness.”

    Good review. Thanks for providing the clip.

  • Mark Saleski

    reminded me of a cross between Adrien Legg and Leo Kotke.

  • Ryan

    There is Adrian Legg and Leo Kottke, there is Martin Taylor and Doyle Dykes, and when you look a step higher, there is Tommy Emmanuel on a whole other level, a paragon of the guitar. His sense of composition and technique is virtuosic and runs the gamut of popular Western music. There are a bevy of clips on YOUTUBE.com where he is fast becoming the most popular and emulated musician. Check out his sublime interpretations of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” and “Mona Lisa” tell me who else uses harmonics to such stunning effect.

  • oldestgeek

    Amazing! On a local PBS pledge night, I found him self indulgent, pretentious, and annoying!

    It was more noise than music, embarrassing and painful to watch.

    There should be a DJ mix of Emmanuel, Nyiregyhazi. and Kenton’s City of Glass!