During his lifetime, guitar legend Chet Atkins bestowed the title of Certified Guitar Player (CGP) on only a handful of musicians: John Knowles, Steve Wariner, Jerry Reed and acoustic master Tommy Emmanuel. In choosing his list of 10 essential acoustic guitar albums, Emmanuel tips his hat more than a few times to his late friend and inspiration, as well as one of his fellow honorees.
“You can train a monkey to play fast, but you can’t manufacture soul in music if it isn’t there," Emmanuel says. "When I listen to Chet Atkins, that's all I hear – soul. And when I listen to what he and Jerry Reed did together, it still amazes me, because the music truly lived in their hearts."
Expanding on that point, Emmanuel, who has been celebrated for his astonishing virtuosity, with an approach to playing that that incorporates a wide range of styles, stresses that "music is only about the feeling – virtuosity is secondary. The world is full of guitar players who can play great and do all sorts of impressive things. They have amazing guitars, beautiful microphones and well-shot videos, but there’s no heart to what they’re doing. They get too caught up with trying to be clever, but they miss the boat when it comes to really saying something."
Which translates to, in Emmanuel's words, "a feeling of timelessness. A great album – and a great acoustic guitar record, in particular – is like a wonderful moment in time, and the special thing about it is, you get to go back and re-experience it. These records are like wonderful and powerful photographs, but they haven't faded with age one bit. They're just as strong as the day they were recorded."
On the following pages, Emmanuel discusses his picks for 10 essential acoustic guitar albums. And for dates and ticket information on Tommy Emmanuel's upcoming tour with special guest Martin Taylor (The Colonel & The Governor), click here.