Tommy Emmanuel / Martin Taylor

The Colonel & The Governor

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There's an implicit sense of mutual admiration behind the titling of this album collaboration between two of the world's gifted -- and certainly most decorated -- fingerpicking guitarists. Named in relation to Emmanuel's status as an honorary Kentucky Colonel and Taylor's lettered English roots, The Colonel & The Governor is primarily a collection of the duo's favorite jazz standards and pop classics, delivered in a way that betrays not only their shared virtuosity, but also their sense of playfulness. In the immediate years leading up to this release, while Emmanuel's studio output has been relatively sparse -- bar the impressive 2010 solo album Little by Little and the 2011 John Fahey nod that was All I Want for Christmas -- Taylor has been more prolific, collaborating with such jazz luminaries as Frank Vignola and Alan Barnes. Although Emmanuel and Taylor are both notoriously comfortable in the art of genre-hopping, it's Taylor's gentle Django Reinhardt- and Stéphane Grappelli-influenced jazz heredity that forms the basis of this set. So even though we're occasionally given brief glimpses of Emmanuel's accomplished folk and country leanings -- mainly through his tasteful rhythm-cum-lead playing -- it's clear that jazz is the order of the day on this release. When the duo run through "Jersey Bounce" -- a '40s swing hit for Benny Goodman -- and the jazz standard "Bernie's Tune," it's equally clear that Emmanuel is more than at home in this territory. Among the pop material on display here is the duo's inventive take on the early-'60s Kathy Kirby hit "Secret Love." Built around Emmanuel's singular use of harmonics, it's a clear highlight of the disc. Elsewhere, Taylor contributes two original compositions to the album in the form of the tender ballad "True," and the addictive, Caribbean-influenced "Down at Cocomo's." More than anything it's the duo's sheer enthusiasm for guitar playing that resonates across this release, and although their audible nods of approval to each other's contributions can occasionally be distracting, this is an album that should impress any listener with guitar virtuosity high on their agenda.

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