He has been dubbed, “the sickest guitarist on the planet” for his incredible virtuosity and amazing take on the style of playing known as “fingerpicking.” He, of course, is celebrated guitarist Tommy Emmanuel, and on Tuesday, July 8th, he will performing a solo acoustic set as part of Berklee Performance Center‘s Guitar Sessions series. Considered somewhat of a National Treasure in his native Australia, his professional career spans over five decades, and has caused him to interact with a variety of artists, from Martin Taylor (whom he toured with in the early part of this year) and Doc Watson, to Eric Clapton, John Denver, Les Paul, and mentor Chet Atkins.
He was named Guitar Player magazine’s “Best Acoustic Guitarist” in 2008, and then again in 2010. Inducted into the illustrious Order of Australia by HM Queen Elizabeth II, Emmanuel is also a gifted composer, who plays drums and pedal steel in addition to acoustic guitar. Followers of the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney will recall his memorable performance with brother Phil Emmanuel on electric guitar during the closing ceremonies. His musical style incorporates both fingerpicking and the “plectrist” method of tapping the frets, popularized by Stanley Jordan and the late Michael Hedges. He was invited by songwriter Burt Bacharach to participate in the acoustic tribute CD, This Guitar’s In Love With You, which includes performances by Laurence Juber, Mark Hanson and Doug Smith. Emmanuel chose the Carpenters hit, “Close To You” (see video), and will likely perform it along with Sting‘s “Fields Of Gold”, the unofficial anthem of Australia, “Waltzing Matilda” and Mason Williams‘ iconic “Classical Gas.”
In his youth, Emmanuel was enamored of guitarist Chet Atkins, and corresponded with the legendary artist, who was taken by his interest in music and infectious enthusiasm. Atkins responded with words of encouragement, and extended an open invite to visit him in Nashville. Their paths finally crossed in a professional capacity when they recorded the album, The Day Finger Pickers Took Over The World in 1997, and performed tracks from it as part of the Nashville Network (renamed Heartland)’s “Country Christmas” that same year. Before he died, Atkins bestowed upon Emmanuel the prestigious “Certified Guitar Player” award: he became the fourth and last guitarist to receive this renown distinction – the other three recipients are Steve Wariner, John Knowles and Jerry Reed. Emmanuel and myself are big fans of Jerry Reed, and we discussed his work and that of other artists we respect – the interview of which will run shortly on my official blog, The Music That You Hear.
Guitar Sessions: Tommy Emmanuel comes to Boston’s Berklee Performance Center on Tuesday, July 8th at 7:30pm. For more information and tickets, visit their website at the following link.