Featuring an all-star cast of musicians' musicians, this duets album from esteemed guitarist Tommy Emmanuel proves that it really does take two to tango. The Grammy-nominated musician pulls in some of the finest talents for the 16 track collaboration released on the new Players Club label: an imprint of the Mascot Label Group. The album covers a whole host of styles and new arrangements of classic songs. Even thought there is a strong classic Americana flavour to the album, Emmanuel's diverse musical taste dips into blues, rock and jazz along the way too.
Grammy winner Jason Isbell opens the album with the stylish Deep River Blues. Wheelin' and Dealing with JD Simo and Charlie Cushman is reminiscent of a riotous southern ho-down complete with Albert Lee inspired guitar licks and a chomping rhythm that propels the track. Emmanuel takes us left of field for his collaboration with singer and fiddle player Amanda Shires. Often likened to Emmy Lou Harris or Dolly Parton for her earthy vocal, here Shires' graceful style lends itself to an almost unrecognisable, yet fabulous cover of Borderline: it's a track that's so seamlessly woven into the fabric of the album that it's not until the chorus that the penny drops that it's a Madonna song. Dire Straits guitarist Mark Knopfler also jumps on board for the humorous You Don't Want To Get You One of Those which has a touch of Johnny Cash at his jovial best.
Those familiar with Dave Grisman's otherworldly talents of mandolin playing are in for a treat as he features on two tracks on this album: Watson Blues and C-jam blues (both with Bryan Sutton) the improvisational skills of all the musicians involved are first class. The latter is an example of three musicians all contributing equally for the sole benefit of the music, rather than flexing their egos. This is a theme that runs through the album, there's no sense of rushing the songs, or the performers trying to clamber over each other for a piece of the action. Accomplice One is an album where talent will out at all costs and the music is left to speak for itself. Another legendary bluegrass musician, Jerry Douglas, joins Emmanuel in a frighteningly good rendition of Purple Haze. Douglas is king of the Dobro and if you thought that it was one instrument impossible to shred on, you'd be very mistaken.
Emmanuel's mentor Chet Atkins must surely have informed his style on Djangology, a tribute to Gypsy jazz pioneer Django Reinhardt. The track contains the spirit of the Hot Club of Paris, with Emmanuel's distinctive Americana style added for good measure. The nuances and lightness of playing on offer equally match Reinhardt's breezy butterfly technique. The album closer The Duke's Message with the lilting vocal of Suzy Bogguss gives us time to wind down and reflect on the beauty of the music in this folk-inspired track.
Accomplice One is an album that features A-Listers but also it's full of surprises, beautiful arrangements and masterful musicianship. If this is the standard of the new Players Club material, then there's going to have to some very exclusive members of this club to follow such a satisfying debut from the label.
Groupie Rating 5/5