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The Mystery

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Editors’ Notes

Australian fretboard prodigy Tommy Emmanuel’s association with fellow ax-god Steve Vai’s Favored Nations label has been a marriage made in guitar heaven, with this album further pushing the finger-style master into the crowded American pop music spotlight. Indeed, the fevered “Gameshow Rag/Cannonball Rag” medley included here was nominated as Best Country Instrumental Performance of 2006. But while that track and the flamenco-tinged, equally breakneck opener “Cantina Senese” underscore Emmanuel’s reputation as the Eddie Van Halen of contemporary acoustic guitar, the balance of the album downshifts into material that’s more intimately scaled. The title track, “Cowboy’s Dream” and “Antonella’s Birthday” are inviting, melodic exercises that further display his gifted technique, while tracks like “Lewis & Clark,”  “And So It Goes” and “Digger’s Waltz” (the latter presaged by a haunting rendition of “Taps”) recall the introspective folk spirit of Ry Cooder. “Walls,” a vocal duet with partner Elizabeth Watkins, seems aimed squarely at contemporary country chart sensibilities. But quieter moments like “Keep It Simple” and the harmonics-punctuated iTunes exclusive “Finger Lakes” also showcase a corner of Emmanuel’s soul that’s as melancholy as his opening salvo is fiery.

Customer Reviews

Don't believe the iTMS review above...

The official iTunes Music Store review for this album is utterly shameful. I'm indignant—no, incensed—that Apple would allow an iTunes Music Store review to include such an arbitrary and subjective comment as "...his original compositions don't leave much of a lasting impression." What the...? Lasting impression on whom? What are the reviewer's qualifications? Why isn't there a "Report a Concern" button for THAT review? Sheesh... (NOTE: I am deliberately resisting the urge to use words like "moronic" with respect to the iTMS review. After all, the reviewer could simply be the victim of some horrible genetic mutation the prevents appreciation of truly superb music.) that I've vented about the injustice of the stock iTMS review, let me just say that you have to hear Tommy's music for yourself. Live with it for a while; develop a relationship with it, and then decide for yourself whether his original compositions "leave much of a lasting impression." The "Mystery" album is another step in Tommy's evolution. Remember that before he recorded the "Only" album, which consisted of Tommy and his acoustic guitar only, he was better known as an electric guitarist—or at least an ensemble guitarist—through albums such as "The Journey" and "Midnight Drive". So how is this album different from "Only"? Well, for one thing, several tunes (Cantina Senese, Gameshow Rag/Cannonball Rag, The Mystery, That's The Spirit) show Tommy's Chet Atkins influence, so in that sense, it's something of a return to his musical roots, but played in context with his current one-man-plus-guitar acoustic focus. Then too, there's the appearance of the spiritually introspective "Walls", a vocal duet with Lizzie Watkins. It's a neat song with great harmonies. (It's amazing to hear Tommy and Lizzie perform this live!) While some might say a vocal composition seems out of place on an otherwise all-instrumental album, some might also be suffering from anal-cranial inversion, and a profound inability to think outside rigid, narrowly defined criteria about what kinds of music an album "should" contain. If all albums were made by such people, all albums would be pretty doggone boring. If you're not already a Tommy Emmanuel fan, I can see how someone might argue that the "Mystery" album isn't the best place to begin. There are other albums (like those mentioned above) that might be more accessible. But if you already know and appreciate Tommy's work, this album won't let you down. Of course, Tommy's playing is superb throughout.

Amazing Talent

I was rasied on Chet Atkins, and the first time I heard Tommy live, I was almost in tears. He is Chet inspired, but to an amazing level. He is an unbelievably gifted and talented guitarist. I'll stop wearing out my old Tommy CD's and playlists and start wearing out The Mystery. It's fabulous. Thanks Tommy!

The Mystery continues Tommy's remarkable journey

The Mystery continues Tommy's remarkable journey and we are all the better for it. I've had a chance to listen to this album twice since I downloaded it. It's on my desert island list, and if I had room for only one more song in my iPod it would be Lewis & Clark. Somehow Tommy's tribute to Lewis & Clark dances on the edge of tears and falls back into hope. Living in San Antonio I was surprised by Cantina Senese - you don’t expect this from an Aussie! Gameshow Rag/Cannonball Rag is there to let us know Tommy hasn’t slowed down one lick - and then the rest of the album does just that. Cowboy’s Dreams is a pleasant tune that leads us to Walls, the one track that Nashville got a hold of, vocals, drums and bass - which just get in the way of his playing. The rest of the album is a treat. Lewis and Clark - listen again. The Diggers’ Waltz - a wonderful bit of outback. Antonella's Birthday - having seen him play it live I marvel at what I'm hearing. Billy Joel's "And So It Goes" is one of my favorite Billy Joel songs and Tommy does it justice - all the emotion is there - for all the world to feel - no lyric required. The remaining tracks, That's the Spirit, Footprints, Keep It Simple and Finger Lakes continue the contemplative tone. Not as technically flashy as past work, but emotionally very satisfying.


Born: May 31, 1955 in Australia

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Tommy Emmanuel, four-time winner of Australia's Best Guitarist award, has helped bring the art of rock guitar down under to a higher awareness over his two-decade-long career by bringing a sense of jazz improvisation into a mix that also includes blues, country, rock, classical, and Spanish music. After years as a popular sideman and ace songwriter, the two-time ARIA (Aussie Grammys equivalent) award winner launched his solo career in 1988 with Up from Down Under. Several releases have followed,...
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The Mystery, Tommy Emmanuel
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