Tommy Emmanuel The Mystery

When it comes to guitar prodigies, native Australian Tommy Emmanuel has been ripping up concert halls for years with what sounds like a minimum six fingers per hand approach to acoustic guitar. His finger-picking style is otherworldly in its speed and accuracy, while his overall musicality is unquestionable. If you think you are hearing Chet Atkins, he’s clearly a large influence (the two recorded a record together in ’97) but there’s plenty of Michael Hedges’ "violent acoustic” school in evidence, if not John Fahey in Emmanuel’s more adventurous moments. The buoyant, Spanish-driven "Cantina Senese” launches the record in classic, high-energy Emmanuel style. The beautiful "Walls” depicts another side of this multi-faceted player — a delightful duet with Elizabeth Watkins, that borders on being radio-ready folk pop with its bullet-proof hook. Although Emmanuel’s early attempts at singing were largely ill-advised, this is a surprisingly powerful turn of events for his catalogue. Emmanuel’s own "Lewis & Clark” demonstrates what he does best: transforming a strong melody into a rapturous, six-string fantasy — the aural equivalent of drifting along in a boat on a dead-still lake on a perfect summer day. "Keep it Simple” does exactly that, with breathtaking results. Not his most thoroughly consistent release but a guitar-lover’s dream and, no doubt, a cause for instant frustration. (Favored Nations)