Guitar great Tommy Emmanuel sure to inspire Sheffield audience

Australian acoustic guitarist Tommy Emmanuel
Australian acoustic guitarist Tommy Emmanuel

Australian acoustic guitarist Tommy Emmanuel used to create a bit of a stir when he appeared at the Boardwalk in Sheffield city centre.

It wasn’t just the virtuoso fingerstyle performance he gave on stage, but also he was in demand among local musicians afterwards.

They wanted to shake his hand and discuss playing techniques, resulting in long after-show advice sessions.

That was a long time ago – 20 years? - but there is no doubt that Emmanuel is still up there among the most highly rated of acoustic guitarists.

Around ten years ago, he was listed among the greatest acoustic guitarists of all time by Gibson.com, the website of the renowned American manufacturer of guitars.

There he was alongside the likes of Robert Johnson, John Fahey, Bert Jansch, Richard Thompson and Andrés Segovia.

Tommy Emmanuel has been playing professionally since the age of six and is one of only five people to have been awarded Chet Atkins’ Certified Guitar Player accolade.

You can watch him in action alongside the likes of Joe Bonamassa and Buddy Guy on the Blues Alive at Sea VI, sailing from Miami to Nassau in February next year.

Then again, for something a little more immediate and closer to home, there is a date at Sheffield City Hall Ballroom next Thursday (March 21).

The two-time Grammy nominee is one of Australia’s most respected musicians, having garnered legions of fans over a professional career spanning five decades.

It all started in his family’s band, evolving into him as a rock n’ roll lead guitarist before the launch of a solo career

He mastered a technique that allows him to incorporate melody, chord harmonies and bass to become his own one-man band.

The style has featured prominently in a series of collaborations with other world class musicians, teaming up recently with another great guitarist, John Knowles, for the album Heart Songs.

On this occasion, the focus was described as honouring the music rather than using it as a springboard for virtuoso display.

The results are melodic and easy going, including versions of Hank Williams’ Cold, Cold Heart, the Bee Gees’ How Deep Is Your Love, The Hollies’ He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother, West Side Story’s Somewhere and Where Is Love from Oliver!

“Really, the bottom line is that Johnny and I just love to play this kind of music together,” says Emmanuel.

“That’s the bottom line. We’re not trying to make a statement or set any trends.

“We’re just playing these songs because we love them. But we also hope that when people—young, old and in between—put this music on, it brings something to them that they haven’t felt in a long while.”

Emmanuel has always counted the great pop songwriters and singers among his heroes alongside the great guitarists.

The partnership with Knowles behind him, he is back on the road, doing what come naturally to him.

He plays hundreds of shows every year from Nashville to Sydney to London – and now, after a date at the Royal Festival Hall in London, it’s back to Sheffield.

Support comes from Chicago native, now Nashville resident, JD Simo, a guitarist, singer-songwriter, producer and former member of rock band Simo.