On Stage: Emmanuel is the guitar players’ guitar player

By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times

Tommy Emmanuel

Tommy Emmanuel is a guitarist that other accomplished guitarists go out of their way to hear play. He is one of only five musicians handpicked by his mentor, Chet Atkins, as a Certified Guitar Player (CGP).

On February 3, Emmanuel will perform an area show at the Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com).

Emmanuel, a native of New South Wales, Australia, is touring in support of his new album “Accomplice One,” which was released on January 19, 2018 on CGP Sounds and distributed by Thirty Tigers. Emmanuel’s album count is closing in on 30 – with no end in sight.

“Accomplice One” is a 16-track collaborative album featuring guest artists such as Jason Isbell, Mark Knopfler, Rodney Crowell, Jerry Douglas, J.D. Simo, Ricky Skaggs, David Grisman and more.

“The album took almost two years to finish because everyone was so busy with their own projects,” said Emmanuel, during as phone interview Monday afternoon from his home in Nashville, Tennessee.

Normally, recording collaborations isn’t that hard because artists work on tracks together indifferent locations and simply send tracks back-and-forth to each other digitally. Emmanuel opted to do it the old-fashioned way.

“I wanted us to be playing and singing live in the studio as if we were onstage together,” said Emmanuel. “I did some tracks in London, England and one in Havana, Cuba. The rest I did here in Nashville. It was a joy to work together.

“I started by bringing in David Grisman and Bryan Sutton. We did five or six songs together and I thought it worked really well. The chemistry was good. Jason Isbell came in and then his wife Amanda Shires came in.”

The following is the list of impressive collaborations Emmanuel presents in “Accomplice One” –“Deep River Blues” with Jason Isbell; “Song and Dance Man” with Ricky Skaggs; “Saturday Night Shuffle” with Jorma Kaukonen & Pat Bergeson; “Wheelin’ & Dealin’”with J.D. Simo & Charlie Cushman; “C-Jam Blues” with David Grisman & Bryan Sutton; “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of The Bay” with J.D. Simo; “Borderline” with Amanda Shires; “You Don’t Want To Get You One Of Those” with Mark Knopfler; “Keepin’ It Reel” with Clive Carrol; “Looking Forward To The Past” with Rodney Crowell; “Purple Haze” with Jerry Douglas; “Rachel’s Lullaby” with Jake Shimabukuro; “Djangology” with Frank Vignola & Vinny Raniolo; “Watson Blues” with David Grisman & Bryan Sutton; “Tittle Tattle” with Jack Pearson; and “The Duke’s Message” with Suzy Bogguss.

If you’re wondering if the “Purple Haze” track is a cover of the Jimi Hendrix classic – it is.

“I did ‘Purple Haze’ with Jerry Douglas,” said Emmanuel. “I had an arrangement from years ago. I played it for Jerry and he jumped on it.

“The mixing of the album was done here in Nashville and then it was mastered in L.A. The whole thing is pretty consistent. I wanted it to sound really authentic. It was all done with microphones and me playing drums and bass. I’m the band.”

One of the collaborators on the album is on the road with Emmanuel.

“Rodney Crowell is opening for me,” said Emmanuel. “He has the fantastic fiddle player – Eamon McLoughlin. Eamon is a member of the Grand Ole Opry Band – that’s how good he is.

“The show opens with Rodney and Eamon for 40 minutes and then there is a break. After the break, I’ll do my stuff. Then, I’ll bring on Jerry and Eamon and we’ll close out the night together.”

Video link for Tommy Emmanuel – https://youtu.be/SWwdwVolf7Y?list=PL4P80wY3eGUEl0ZCesVwKps5oK89ENFL4.

The show at the Keswick Theater will start at 8 p.m. Ticket prices range from $40-$87.

Another show this week at the Keswick will be a production of “The Cat in the Hat” on February 6.

Flint Eastwood

Back in April, Detroit’s Flint Eastwood (Jax Anderson) releases her hotly-anticipated “Broke Royalty” EP on Neon Gold Records and followed with U.S. tour that included shows at Sasquatch, Bonnaroo, Electric Forest and Lollapalooza.

The EP had production support from MUTEMATH’s Paul Meany, as well as a track with principal BØRNS collaborator Tommy English.

At the start of last year, Flint Eastwood’s empowerment anthem “Queen” was released ahead of the Women’s Marches across the nation. In March, she was hailed as one of the breakout acts of SXSW. Following the conference, Huw Stephens at BBC Radio 1 declared her “absolutely incredible” ahead of his world premiere of “Push” featuring Tunde Olaniran.

A few weeks ago, Anderson released the video “Monster” (a track from “Broke Royalty”) and premiered it via an emotionally-charged feature on Billboard.

Now, Flint Eastwood is touring again. The tour includes a show on February 3 at Coda (1712 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 267- 639-4630, http://www.codaphilly.com).

“I’m still touring ‘Broke Royalty’,” said Anderson, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from a stop in Tarrytown, New York. “I’m one week into my headline tour. After that, I’ll go right back out on tour with Pvris.”

Flint Eastwood was started by Anderson in Detroit in 2010.

“Flint Eastwood is a continuation of me creating stuff back from high school,” said Anderson. “Different friend has been in and out of the project over the years. The name has been around for five years.”

Flint Eastwood had two previous EPs – “Late Night in Bolo Ties” in 2013 and “Small Victories” in 2015.

“Right now, I’m performing with a bass player and a drummer,” said Anderson. “I prefer playing songs from ‘Broke Royalty’ and ‘Small Victories.’ I like to keep ‘Late Night in Bolo Ties’ in the past. I’m also playing a few new songs.

“I like to evolve and look ahead. With the newer songs, I touch a lot on relationships – on fears and worries –on the human experience. When I’m writing, I’m always trying to process emotions.”

In 2015, Anderson helped co-found Assemble Sound, a collaboration studio space for Detroit musicians to meet, find resources, and ultimately create good art. They raised funds, purchased a church from the 1870’s, and renovated it as a community.

“I recorded ‘Broke Royalty’ at a place called Assemble Sound,” said Anderson. “It’s a performance space in an old church. I’ve been writing all my record there for two years. It’s a really chill space with vaulted ceilings and an old organ. It’s a writers’ space — a studio where musicians can write and record. We just wanted to provide a space where musicians to assemble.”

Video link for Flint Eastwood – https://youtu.be/HN0cp6xvGaI.

The show at Coda, which has NYDGE and TieDye Ky as openers, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15.

The Skull

On February 5, metal music from around the area will welcome The Skull to Philadelphia for a show at Kung Fu Necktie (1248 North Front Street, Philadelphia, 215-291-4919, kungfunecktie.com).

The story of The Skull can be a little confusing.

The Skull is a hard-hitting metal band from Chicago that was formed by three former members of the metal band Trouble – vocalist Eric Wagner, drummer Jeff “Oly” Olson and bassist Ron Holzner. A new line-up of Trouble is still playing and recording. “The Skull” is the name of Trouble’s second album, which was released in 1985 on Metal Blade Records.

The current line-up of The Skull is led by Wagner and Holzner.

On this 15-city tour, The Skull is performing Trouble’s classic 1990 Def American Recordings self-titled debut, “Trouble,” in its entirety. The band, which also features drummer Brian Dixon, guitarist Lothar Keller and guitarist Rob Wrong, will also play songs from “The Skull” at the special one-time-only shows.

“A few years ago, I was playing with my band Blackfinger in Milwaukee at the Days of the Doom Festival,” said Wagner, during a phone interview Friday from a tour stop in Montreal, Quebec. “Oly and Ron were there and I invited them to come up onstage and play with me during my set.

“We got to hang out together at the festival. It was really nice. We could tell it was a good thing. It evolved from there. I contacted Oly and Ron to play with me in a tribute to Freddie Mercury.

“Then, we had the opportunity to play at the Hell’s Pleasure Festival in Pößneck, Germany. I thought – this could be fun.”

In 2014, the nucleus of Wagner, Holzner and Keller recorded and released The Skull’s debut album – “For Those Which Are Asleep.”

Fans of Trouble and The Skull now had two bands serving up heavy doses of their favorite music.

“There isn’t any conflict between the current Trouble and me,” said Wagner. “With Trouble songs, I wrote the lyrics so why can’t I do these songs. I have no problem with Trouble.  I wish them the best.

“We started out just playing Trouble stuff. Now, we do half-and-half. We took our name from the second Trouble album. It made sense in as lot of ways. When we were making the ‘Trouble’ album, even though I had written the lyrics, there were some songs I had a hard time remembering. But, for the most part. It was like riding a bike.”

Despite the big gap in time, many of the songs sound fresh rather than dated.

“Some of the things we were talking about back then are still going on,” said Wagner. “I think about how it still rings true today.”

In additional news, The Skull has completed work on its as-yet-untitled new album. Recorded in Chicago’s Decade Music Studios with engineer Sanford Parker, the record is the follow-up to The Skull’s heralded debut, “For Those Which Are Asleep,” which landed at or near the top of many 2014 year-end “best of” lists. A summer 2018 release date is projected for the new LP.

“People keep asking us about making new music,” said Wagner. “We have a second album in the can and we’ve already started working on the next one.”

Video link for The Skull – https://youtu.be/XqpkNMFU4L4.

The show at Kung Fu Necktie, which has The Company Corvette and Hellrad as opening acts, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15.

Other upcoming shows at Kung Fu Necktie are 6 Underground on February 3, Ships in the Night on February 6, ands Uni and Starbenders on February 7.

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