Saturday, November 12, 2011

Finding Tommy For The Holidays

Tommy Emmanuel is a guitarist from Australia and I chanced upon his new Christmas album by chance, and what do you know, I totally loved it, so I did a little digging about him. This bio is from his personal website.

Two-time Grammy nominee Tommy Emmanuel is one of Australia’s most respected musicians. The legendary guitarist has a professional career that spans five decades and continues to intersect with some of the finest musicians throughout the world. A household name in his native Australia, Tommy has garnered hundreds of thousands of loyal fans worldwide. Tommy’s unique style – he calls it simply “finger style” – is akin to playing guitar the way a pianist plays piano, using all ten fingers. Rather than using a whole band for melody, rhythm, bass, and drum parts, Tommy plays all that – and more – on one guitar. Guitar legend Chet Atkins was one of the first to inspire Emmanuel to try this “fingerpicker” style as a child. Decades later, Atkins himself became one of Emmanuel’s biggest fans.

He does has a very light way with the guitar and I totally love it, and if I had to compare the style, it would be like Bill Charlap on the piano. I call it intelligent strumming - he knows and interprets these songs as if he was a vocalist that there is nuance in every pluck, every pull. It's vivacious when it needs to be ("Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," "Rudolph") and there's an underlying melancholy where needed, without being too sentimental, like in the heartfelt "The Magic Of Christmas."  There's an exquisite "I'll Be Home For Christmas" here, without a beat that's a little urgent. I imagine this version about someone rushing home, full of anticipation, and it just touched me. Plus, there's a "Jingle Bells" here that has a simplicity that's so relatable. I remember years ago I found a generic Christmas CD of a String Quartet and it was so beautiful I couldn't stop playing it. I think I found this year's version of that.

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