“If you like guitar playing, it simply doesn’t get any better than Tommy.” – Jason Isbell
Tommy Emmanuel has achieved enough musical milestones to satisfy several lifetimes. Or at least they would if he was the kind of artist who was ever satisfied. At the age of six, he was touring regional Australia with his family band. By 30, he was a rock n’ roll lead guitarist burning up stadiums in Europe. At 44, he became one of five people ever named a Certified Guitar Player by his idol, music icon Chet Atkins. Today, he plays hundreds of sold-out shows every year from Nashville to Sydney to London. All the while, Tommy has hungered for what’s next. When you’re widely acknowledged as the international master of the solo acoustic guitar, what’s next is Accomplice One, an album of collaborations with some of the finest singers, songwriters and, yes, guitarists alive today – a list including Jason Isbell, Mark Knopfler, Rodney Crowell, Jerry Douglas, Amanda Shires, Ricky Skaggs, J.D. Simo, David Grisman, Bryan Sutton, Suzy Bogguss and many more.
Since he and his brother Phil taught themselves to play as toddlers, the guitar has been Tommy’s real first language–and he’s more articulate on his signature Melbourne-made Maton acoustics than most people are with words. Influenced by the Merle Travis/Chet Atkins fingerstyle of guitar picking, Tommy developed a style of solo guitar playing that encompasses the range of a whole band– covering drums, bass, rhythm and lead guitar and a vocal melody simultaneously. No loop pedals, no overdubs, just one man and ten fingers. While some artists take ten-piece bands on the road and still fill out the sound with backing tracks, Tommy builds a complete sonic world entirely on his own.
For many players, the technical mastery of the technique would overwhelm the emotion of the music, but not for Tommy. His idols are not just the great players, but also the great pop songwriters and singers–Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, The Beatles and their ilk. While thousands of fans have spent years trying to unpack and imitate Tommy’s technique, for him it’s just the delivery system. His approach is always song and emotion first, his music the embodiment of his soulful spirit, sense of hope and his love for entertaining.
Which is not to say he dismisses the CGP, the Guitar Player awards, the Grammy nominations, the numerous magazine polls naming him the greatest acoustic guitarist alive. He’s grateful for it all, and the incredible journey that’s led him to the most invigorating period of his career–six decades into it. For Tommy though, the greatest reward is always the same–to make the next great record, and to see the beaming audience at the next great show.
“When I was a kid, I wanted to be in show business. Now I just want to be in the happiness business–I make music, you get happy. That’s a good job.”
Andy McKee is among the world’s finest acoustic guitarists. His youthful energy and attention to song structure and melodic content elevates him above the rest. He entertains both the eye and the ear as he magically transforms the steel string guitar into a full orchestra via his use of altered tunings, tapping, partial capos, percussive hits and a signature two-handed technique.
McKee’s crossover success has helped him to achieve millions upon millions of YouTube viewers, underscoring his emergence as one of today’s most unique and influential artists. He has been featured as a cover story in both Acoustic Guitar Magazine in the U.S. and Acoustic Magazine in the UK, and is also the figurehead of the unique Guitar Masters tours. McKee’s tour dates have taken him through Europe, Asia, Australia and North America, including tours with legendary acts including Prince and Dream Theater.
Live performances of Andy’s have become a point of fascination with his loyal followers. So, in late 2015, Andy decided it was time to release a live album. Featuring tracks from his entire catalog, Live Book was recorded live in December 2015 at The Melting Point in Athens, GA, the Red Clay Music Foundry in Duluth, GA, and Workplay in Birmingham, AL. McKee went through the recordings from all three shows and selected the finest takes of each set. Reflecting on the song choices, he looks to provide current fans the chance to relive their favorite shows, and hopes that he can showcase the energy he creates for those who haven’t been able to attend a show and new fans alike.
“I’ve always wanted to do a live album; for quite a few years I’ve felt it’s something that has been missing from my collection of releases,” says McKee. “This album will feature some of my YouTube hits like ‘Drifting’ and ‘Rylynn’, some songs from my 2014 EP Mythmaker, and a cover of a Michael Hedges song called ‘Because It’s There’ played on harp guitar that I haven’t released yet.”
McKee is the first artist to be signed CGP Sounds, the record label founded by fellow guitarist Tommy Emmanuel.
“I’m honored to be a part of his label. I heard Tommy 15 years ago at a festival in Kansas and was blown away by his playing and performing, and I still am,” McKee stated. “To be the first person on his label is surreal, and I’m excited and proud to be a part of it.” andymckee.com