The colonel and the governor team up for a feast of virtuoso guitar magic
Any aspiring guitar player might have one of two reactions to a performance by six-string virtuosos Tommy Emmanuel and Martin Taylor.
You might stand, open-mouthed in amazement and admiration, and walk away inspired and energised. Or you might savour their complex skills and beaming passion, then abandon all hope of ever being able to master the instrument yourself. Tommy would much rather you chose the first option, but one thing is certain – it would be impossible to be unimpressed. The Australian-born musician, a big star in the US and renowned across the globe, makes it all look so easy. He uses all ten fingers to tease the most exquisite melodies, bass notes and percussive sounds from his guitar.
Few can match his flawless standard, but for his latest record release and tour Tommy has teamed up with a man with all the right credentials – his long-time friend and British acoustic guitar hero Martin.
After many years trying to find time for a collaboration, they are at last proudly presenting their fine acoustic album The Colonel and the Governor, and heading out on tour together under that banner, with two Westcountry shows next week.
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"We're a couple of old diggers," laughs Tommy, 57, who was a child prodigy, picking up the guitar for the first time when he was just four.
By the time he was six he was working professionally in the family band, with his parents, brothers Phil and Chris and sister Virginia, touring across Australia from New South Wales. After hearing the music of Chet Atkins for the first time in the early 1960s, Tommy became riveted by his style. The young pretender wrote to his hero and the American guitarist became Tommy's long distance mentor, long before the two eventually met in 1980.
In between and ever since, Tommy developed his craft, in rock bands like Dragon, as well as in solo mode. Chet took Tommy under his wing, introducing him to his personal philosophies and sharing his musical expertise.
Tommy first saw Martin playing on an Australian TV show in the 1980s.
"I thought holy-moly this guy is good, so I rang him at his hotel and invited him to come and play with me at my show in a big hall in Sydney."
Martin reciprocated when Tommy relocated to England, where he was virtually unknown, to raise a family with his ex-wife, inviting him to guest on his solo show. When Martin became a member of Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings band, Tommy was invited to open for them on tour in 2000. That's when the two guitar wizards really bonded and decided they would love to record together some day.
"We eventually found time to record last summer when Martin came over to Nashville – where I live now – to play at the Chet Atkins guitar festival and we went into the studio for a couple of days," says Tommy. "It is always an incredible joy to play with Martin; he is such an amazing player."
If you're wondering about the LP title, Tommy Emmanuel is an honorary Kentucky Colonel, and Martin (MBE), well he's just the governor in Tommy's eyes.
Tommy Emmanuel and Martin Taylor perform together at the Queen's Theatre, Barnstaple, on March 12, and at the Corn Exchange, Exeter, on March 13.