Tommy Emmanuel – Iowa City, IA – February 13, 2018

Tommy Emmanuel - Iowa City, IA - February 13, 2018

Tommy Emmanuel CGP – Live in Concert
With Special Guest Rodney Crowell

Tuesday, February 13, 2018
The Englert Theatre
Iowa City, IA

Tickets On Sale Now:
Tickets available at Englert.org, by phone at 319-688-2653, and at the Englert Box Office (M-F 12pm-6pm).

Ticket Prices:
$44.50
(plus applicable fees and/or taxes)

Doors: 6:30pm
Show: 7:30pm

Presented by Frank Productions | True Endeavors




Tommy Emmanuel CGP

Give a listen to “Old Photographs,” the closing track on Tommy Emmanuel’s It’s Never Too Late (2015), and you’ll hear the distinctive squeak of finger noise as he runs his hands across the frets of his Maton Signature TE guitar. It’s an imperfection in the performance that players typically try to eliminate in practice, and in the hands of a less-secure musician, that sound could easily be edited from the recording with Pro Tools recording technology.

But in their own way, those imperfections are perfect. For all of the masterful technique and flashy ability that’s brought Emmanuel recognition among the world’s greatest guitarists, that finger noise lets the audience know he is one of them. That click conveys warmth and humanity. And it demonstrates an honesty in the sound. The same approach was taken with Tommy Emmanuel’s latest offering, LIVE! At The Ryman (2017), a “genuine ‘had to be there,’ no fix ups, no frills recording,” says Emmanuel. “Each of my guitars has pickups and microphones included when you buy them, so the sound you hear from this recording is exactly as it sounds in the hall.”

LIVE! At The Ryman—recorded in front of a sold-out audience at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium in February 2016—highlights Emmanuel’s fervor as a master guitarist and also encapsulates a landmark moment for the musician as he is joined on stage by Steve Wariner and John Knowles, the only other two living CGPs (Certified Guitar Players: the honor and moniker Chet Atkins assigned not only to himself but four other guitarists he admired and felt contributed to the legacy of guitar playing) for a performance of “San Antonio Stroll.”

“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.” That mutual pleasure and enjoyment can effortlessly be heard between Emmanuel and the Nashville audience throughout all the melodic twist and turns, guitar mastery and musical expression captured on the 15-track LIVE! At The Ryman.

An accomplished fingerstyle player, 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. That expert layering is exemplified during LIVE! At The Ryman, notably on “Eva Waits,” a new song from Emmanuel that has not been released on a previous album.

There’s a science to assembling the parts, and Emmanuel’s technical gift has earned him multiple awards from Guitar Player magazine and made him a Member of the Order of Australia, an honor bestowed by the Queen in his homeland. But the average fan could listen without even considering the precision behind the work, focusing instead on the artful tension and release of Emmanuel’s melodies. That’s how he intends it.

“I write as if I’m writing for a singer,” he explains. “I don’t think, ‘Ah, it’s just a solo guitar piece.’ I try to imagine I’m playing with a band or with a singer, but then I play the whole thing as a solo piece and look for ways to give it space.”

Emmanuel was destined, perhaps, to become a world-class musician. Given his first guitar at age four, he started working professionally just two years later in a family band, the Emmanuel Quartet. He never learned to read and write music, but he and his brother Phil were dedicated students of the instrument, creating games that helped them identify chords and patterns. They became adept at picking out the nuances of complex chords, a talent that takes most musicians years to develop.

Thus, Emmanuel had the music – and the showmanship – and in short order, the music had him. “When I was on stage people lit up,” he recalls. “I didn’t know what it was, but it made me kind of show off and do all the things that cocky little kids do at 6, 7, 8 years old. Music was the worst drug I ever had, and I’m still hooked on it.”

Emmanuel pursued it with a passion, continuously working in a variety of bands through his school years, including the Midget Safaris (a new name for the Emmanuel kids as they covered surf music) and the Trailblazers, a high-school group that played weddings and parties. After graduation, Emmanuel became one of Australia’s most in-demand rock musicians, playing guitar in a succession of bands, including one of Australia’s best-known acts, Dragon. He supplemented that with a side job as a studio musician, playing on albums by the likes of Air Supply and Men At Work, and on commercial jingles.

It was a rewarding period, but it had its limitations, too. Playing the same set list night after night can turn the road into a chore. And working in a band prevented Emmanuel from making full use of his extraordinary talents and expressing his entire artistic voice. He ventured out on his own and began to treat his shows like a jazz musician would, eschewing set lists, improvising his way through many of his songs to capture and shape the mood of the room.

In that process, he was able to latch onto something bigger – a sense of community with the audience and a trust in whatever was in the cosmos that night.

“When I play, I feel like I’m plugged into something,” he says. “I don’t know what it is, and I don’t really want to know. I just want to know that it’s there.”

He could certainly sense the support. In addition to the standing ovations from his audiences, the recognitions rolled in, 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. He’s also been named a Kentucky Colonel, received several honorary degrees and shared a key moment with brother Phil on the world stage, performing during the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games in Sydney.

Playing instrumental music that works in any language and travelling nimbly with a small tour group of three – Emmanuel, a sound engineer and a merchandiser – he was able to build a global audience that encompasses not only Australia, but the U.S., the United Kingdom, Europe and Asia.

And he earned the opportunity to work with the likes of Eric Clapton, Doc Watson, John Denver and the incomparable Atkins. Emmanuel teamed with Chet on a 1997 project, The Day Finger Pickers Took Over the World, which proved to be Atkins’ final project. Atkins practically handpicked Emmanuel as his creative heir, though he never intended for Tommy to be a simple clone.

“The things he respected about me were the things that I respected in myself, which is I stole as much as I possibly could from him, but then I made everything my own,” Emmanuel says. “I totally went in my own direction, and he really admired that about me. I told him, ‘I can’t be you, and I don’t want to be you. I’m me, and I’m gonna get on and do what I do.’ And he said, ‘That’s right.’ He said, ‘There’s enough people out there doing the worst job of trying to play like me.’”

So it is that Emmanuel is moving cheerily forward, trusting that the optimism in his work will provide the same inspiration for the audience that the process provides for him. It inspires Emmanuel, and it’s his hope that the indefinable spirit in those songs in turn inspires the audience.

“I know why I’m here,” he says. “I know it’s not brain surgery, I know I’m not saving someone’s life. I’m just a musician trying to do his best, but each one of us has to do that, and that’s what makes the whole thing work.”

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Rodney Crowell

Rodney Crowell has been doing this for a while. In fact, his career has been so long and varied that you have to specify exactly which “this” you’re talking about. There’s the record-making, which dates back to 1978 (when he released Ain’t Living Long Like This), peaked commercially a decade later (with Diamonds & Dirt, which yielded five number-one country hits), and has only grown in sophistication and power in recent years. There’s the fiercely lyrical and personal songwriting, which has attracted the attention of everyone from Bob Seger (who famously covered “Shame On the Moon”) to Keith Urban (who had a number-one hit with “Making Memories of Us”). And then there’s the autobiographical writing, which extends beyond the music world to a memoir, Chinaberry Sidewalks, which was published in 2011.

Now there’s a new album, Close Ties, on which Crowell both demonstrates his strengths as a songwriter and illustrates how he has learned to balance personal recollection, literary sophistication, and his profound musical reach. It’s at once his most intimate record and his most accessible, the product of years of understanding the ways songs can enter—and be entered by—life. “It’s a loose concept album, you could say,” Crowell says. “And the concept is related to how you tell stories about yourself. Having a few years ago written a memoir, my sensibilities toward narrative—especially trying to find a common thread in different pieces of writing—had become a part of my songwriting process. One of the reasons I brought Kim Buie in as a producer is that I wanted her to work with me the way an editor works, to look at a number of songs and find the ones that worked together to create a tone.”

Close Ties is a roots record, in the sense that Crowell himself has deep roots that stretch back into the alternative country scene of the early seventies. But is defies easy classification. Is it country? Is it a songwriter record? Does art need categories? “Well,” Crowell says, “when I was a quote-unquote country star for my fifteen minutes of major fame, I hated the label. I bristled at it and got myself in trouble. I would go around to radio stations and that early morning drive-time, chirpy optimism, and I would come across as grumpy. They knew my mind wasn’t in the right place. I was an interloper in that world. I didn’t fit it. It soon spit me out. In hindsight, it should have: I was no asset to their goal, which was to satisfy their advertisers.”

On the other hand, the rise of Americana music struck a nerve with him. “I have declared my loyalty to Americana. It’s a hard category for people to get their heads around, or at least the terminology is. But all the people who represent it—Townes van Zandt, Guy Clark, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle and more recent stars like John Paul White and Jason Isbell—share a common thread, and that thread is poet. Whether they are actual poets or their music exemplifies a poetic sensibility, generally speaking, the Americana artist shuns commercial compromise in favor of a singular vision. Which resonates with me.”

Fifty years after Crowell first started playing as a teen in Houston garage bands, he still believes in the power of songs, and the responsibility of singing them. “The interesting thing about that garage band back then is that we would go from ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ by the Beatles to ‘Honky Tonkin’’ by Hank Williams. In southeast Texas those songs fit side by side. ‘Drinkin’ Wine Spo-de-o-dee’ went right next to ‘Crossroads’ by Cream. That was the beauty of it, that all of that existed side by side.” Crowell finds himself going back to that music, but also going even earlier. “Recently, I think—I hope—that my study of the blues is starting to show up in my music. Those artists, whether it’s Lightnin’ Hopkins or John Lee Hooker or the acoustic Delta players, connected to something fundamental. With that in mind, I’m trying to move forward but also get back there.”

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