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Tommy Emmanuel

SP Flexible Core

An accomplished fingerstyle player, Tommy Emmanuel frequently threads three different parts simultaneously into his material, operating as a one-man band who handles the melody, the supporting chords and the bass all at once. That expert layering is evident in It’s Never Too Late on the quixotic “Only Elliott,” the calming title track and the gorgeous “Hellos And Goodbyes.” There’s a science to assembling the parts, and Emmanuel’s technical gift has earned him multiple awards from Guitar Player magazine and made him a Member of the Order of Australia, an honor bestowed by the Queen in his homeland. But the average fan could listen without even considering the precision behind the work, focusing instead on the artful tension and release of Emmanuel’s melodies. That’s how he intends it. “I write as if I’m writing for a singer,” he explains. “I don’t think, ‘Ah, it’s just a solo guitar piece.’ I try to imagine I’m playing with a band or with a singer, but then I play the whole thing as a solo piece and look for ways to give it space.”

Emmanuel was destined, perhaps, to become a world-class musician. Given his first guitar at age four, he started working professionally just two years later in a family band, the Emmanuel Quartet. He never learned to read and write music, but he and his brother Phil were dedicated students of the instrument, creating games that helped them identify chords and patterns. They became adept at picking out the nuances of complex chords, a talent that takes most musicians years to develop. Thus, Emmanuel had the music – and the showmanship – and in short order, the music had him. “When I was on stage people lit up,” he recalls. “I didn’t know what it was, but it made me kind of show off and do all the things that cocky little kids do at 6, 7, 8 years old. Music was the worst drug I ever had, and I’m still hooked on it.”

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