Tommy Emmanuel: Accomplice Two
By any measure, Australia’s Tommy Emmanuel is one of the most spellbinding and accomplished acoustic guitarists working today. Active since the 1970s—he released his debut album at the end of that decade—he’s been praised by no less than Chet Atkins for his deft fingerstyle picking and has been recognized by the Recording Academy, which has nominated him for two Grammys, in 1998 and 2006, in the Best Country Instrumental Performance category. Yet, Emmanuel has eluded recognition commensurate with his talent, even among aficionados of the style, largely, one would imagine, because he has spent much of his career entrenched in Australia and New Zealand, rather than throwing himself into the Nashville scene, where he might get lost in the crowd. Indeed, he has won or been nominated for multiple Australian music awards over the years, recognized for his jazz and bluegrass work as well as his contributions to mainstream country. But Accomplice Two, a sequel to a first volume that arrived in 2018, serves as a reminder that Emmanuel is not only another hotshot, but also a player capable of welding sophistication to imagination. On duets with compatriots including Billy Strings, Del McCoury, Molly Tuttle, Raul Malo, Sam Bush and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Emmanuel proves to be a strong and resourceful leader and simpatico accompanist. “Another Man Done a Full Go Round,” a collaboration with Jorma Kaukonen, exhibits a good-time feel as it sways along easily, and “Someone Like You,” co-written by and featuring Michael McDonald, is rich in orchestral splendor. But when Emmanuel settles down with mandolinist David Grisman on the Benny Goodman/ Charlie Christian “Seven Come Eleven,” sans other accompanists, the guitarist wrings just as much soul and emotion from his instrument as when he’s got a full team surrounding him.