He’s a fretboard wizard…
Chet Atkins said that TOMMY EMMANUEL was "…one of the greatest guitar players on the planet…” and “…the greatest finger-picker in the world”. Eric Clapton said Tommy was “…the greatest guitar player I’ve ever seen”. What more can I tell you but run, don’t walk to the nearest record store and get all of Tommy’s new releases! First up, CENTER STAGE a live concert from the Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chico, California, that comes as either a two CD set, or a DVD in High Definition vision and 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound. During the concert (on the DVD version) Tommy points out the special cable he plugs in to his guitar and comments on the extra cameras and latest technology being used for the recording. Perhaps you think this is overkill to capture one man and a guitar? Well, then you have obviously never been to a Tommy Emmanuel concert. Capturing the sheer exuberance of the man is no mean feat, but this DVD comes extremely close to that ‘just like being there’ experience.
So what of the music? Included in the 107 minute set-list are favourites such as the outstanding and ever-expanding Beatles Medley, Mombasa and Initiation, which has developed over the years from an evocative Aboriginal-inspired tune with guitar-wrecking percussion effects, to a fully-fledged performance art piece and show-stopper. There are also several of Tommy’s own compositions from his last few albums plus four new works. He also sings three songs including the Merle Travis classic Nine Pound Hammer and Merle Haggard’s Workin’ Man Blues, which kicks off an enjoyable and diverting segment that features fabulous special guest ‘Dangerous’ Bob Littell on harmonica. Extras include longer spoken introductions and commentary on three of the tunes, particularly Lenny Bro’, for which Tommy describes his first meeting with Chet Atkins and the man the song is named for, Lenny Breau. Throughout the concert Tommy is at one with his guitar and the music flows through him like a powerful life force.
EMMANUEL LABOR is Tommy’s new instructional video; a close-up personal demonstration of selections from his recent albums, Only, Endless Road and The Mystery. This was filmed during the three days that also included the evening concerts that were recorded for Center Stage. Non-guitar playing TE fans will still find this DVD enjoyable as he performs 16 tunes, first right through and then in sections for an analysis of the playing techniques involved. This is not for the beginner or faint-hearted, for even when Tommy plays the slowed down versions, they are still mind-boggling for us mere mortals. No music or tablature is included, but transcription books are available via his website.
Bonus features include artificially slowed down riffs, still in pitch, for extra practice. How different things are now for serious students compared to when Tommy himself had to wait to see a photo of Chet Atkins for the first time to learn that Chet was in fact using a thumb pick. A huge revelation for young Tommy who had been learning the tunes from the radio and attempting to play them with a flat-pick!
Center Stage and Emmanuel Labor are released in Australia on ABC Music, distributed by Universal Music.
Until next time, happy holidays and happy surfing!