Give a listen to “Old Photographs,” the closing track on Tommy Emmanuel’s It’s Never Too Late, and you’ll hear the distinctive squeak of finger noise as he runs his hands across the frets of his Maton Signature TE guitar. Many musicians would edit those imperfections out, but to Emmanuel, those imperfections are perfect.
A master technician, Emmanuel started professionally at age 6, rising through the ranks as a studio player and member of several Australian rock bands before he set off on a solo career. One of only five musicians handpicked by his mentor, Chet Atkins, as a Certified Guitar Player (CGP), he’s piled up numerous accolades, including two Grammy nominations, two ARIA Awards from the Australian Recording Industry Association (the Aussie equivalent of the Recording Academy) and repeated honors in the Guitar Player magazine reader’s poll.
A noted fingerstyle guitarist, 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. His talents, which translate in any language, carry him to the far corners of the globe, but Emmanuel never plays the same show twice, and he improvises big chunks of every date. That leaves him open to those technical imperfections, though they also provide some of the humanity to an other-worldly talent.
“It’s all about the feeling of the music,” Emmanuel says. “And it has to make me feel something. I’m still playing for myself, you know, because I figure if I please me, then I’m pretty sure I’m gonna please you. And that’s not an arrogant statement, it’s just quality control.”
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