Sometimes a name is bantered around in certain small circles, but few in the mainstream really know who that is because they’ve really only heard it or saw it in print somewhere. Mention premier Australian acoustic guitarist Tommy Emmanuel to most people, and you’ll get a blank stare. Mention him to most guitar players of any style of music, however, and their eyes light up as they say things like, “Didn’t he play with Chet Atkins?” or “Aren’t the late Les Paul, Eric Clapton and Joe Satriani big fans of his?” or “Wow, that guy is truly amazing!”
All these things are true.
And if you were lucky enough to be in the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall last Saturday night among the devoted fans who filled the hall right up past the balcony and into the second tier of box seats – you know without a doubt it’s all true.
Emmanuel’s fingers effortlessly flew up and down the guitar’s fretboard all night long, as the songs traversed across all musical boundaries. There were jazz standards that morphed into classical interludes, by way of bluegrass and country tunes with just about everything else imaginable thrown in along the way.
Emmanuel’s finger-style guitar prowess coupled with his magnificent arrangements made many a song sound like there was more than one musician playing on stage with him. In the vein of the late Lenny Breau, Emmanuel plays the guitar’s bass lines with his thumb and lets the rest of his fingers play stunning chords and flowing lead lines all at the same time. He even manages to use the body of instrument for drum-type percussion. Talk about multi-tasking.
Some of the material that night harkened back to Emmanuel’s recording with the late guitar master Chet Atkins. But most of it came from his Grammy-nominated album “Endless Road” and his newest release “Just Between Frets: Groove Masters, Vol. 11,” a collaboration with guitar wizard Frank Vignola (who played at The Egg earlier this month) that was released last year on Solid Air Records (owned by another contemporary guitar master, Steve Vai).
Fellow down-under opener, Anthony Snape presented an impassioned set of singer-songwriter folk material, albeit with an Australian accent. He proudly told the audience that one of his tunes made it to American television – on “America’s Big Loser.” With a chuckle, he confided that it wasn’t quite the prestigious cop drama or comedy show he was hoping to tell his family and friends about back home.
Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk