The Beat Goes On: A guitar wizard, a pair of LGBTQ singers, two music festivals, and more


Staff Writer

Published: 09-07-2023 2:05 PM

There are any number of guitar virtuosos in the world, but there are few if any who combine melodicism, technical skill, and sheer exuberance as well as Tommy Emmanuel, who grew up in Australia but was heavily influenced by fingerstyle American guitarists like Chet Atkins.

And since he moved to Nashville, Tennessee, 20-odd years ago, Emmanuel, who comes to the Academy of Music in Northampton Sept. 13 at 8 p.m., has fully embraced American roots and acoustic music, recording duets with a wide range of players as well as releasing his own compositions of solo acoustic guitar.

In an interview with the Gazette last year, Emmanuel, born in 1955, said he’d been playing in rock bands in Australia in the 1980s but began writing more songs for acoustic guitar. “I felt I’d gone as far as I could (in rock), and I was getting comments from audience members that the part of the shows they liked best was me playing my acoustic.”

Well before that, he added, he’d been listening to fingerpickers like Atkins and finding inspiration in their playing.

“Chet was a huge influence on me, and listening to him led me to a whole bunch of other players who inspired me in turn,” he said. “That fingerstyle picking just grabbed me. You could do so much with it.”

Today Emmanuel offers an alternately melodic and fiery sound. His fingerstyle arrangements can be complex; he often uses a thumb pick to accentuate the bass notes or to add heavy strummed chords to his songs. He also uses harmonics and gets percussive effects by tapping the guitar’s sound box with his right hand.

His influences extend in many directions, including blues, pop, and bluegrass — he’s an excellent flatpicker — and Emmanuel has created unique takes on noted rock songs, such as a medley of The Beatles’ “Day Tripper” and “Lady Madonna,” on which he plays the songs’ distinctive bass riffs and melody lines simultaneously.

His most recent album is “Accomplice Two,” on which he duets with bluegrass stars like Molly Tuttle and David Grisman, fellow guitar pickers Jorma Kaukonen and Yasmin Williams, and country icons The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

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Opening the Academy show will be Americana/country specialists Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams, who also play on Emmanuel’s album. The musicians will likely be doing some additional duets at the concert.


For a different kind of show at the Academy, consider Corook — birth name Corrine Savage — a singer/songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentalist and, in their own words, “a huge (expletive) dork.”

Corook, who comes to the Academy Sept. 10 at 8 p.m., learned bass and guitar while growing up in Pennsylvania, then earned dual degrees in songwriting and contemporary writing and production at Berklee College of Music in Boston.

Now living in Nashville, the indie-pop musician, 28, has followed the path of many DIY artists, posting original music online that leads to a sudden interest from record companies. Corook released their debut album, “achoo!” on Atlantic Records in 2022, full of off-beat tunes exploring subjects like a fear of snakes and a love of tequila.

Earlier this year, Corook and their girlfriend, Olivia Barton, released the acoustic-based tune “If I Were a Fish,” a song about finding one’s own identity. The accompanying video went viral and the song has earned over 10 million streams on Spotify, with listeners especially responding to the line “Why is everybody on the internet so mean? / Why is everybody so afraid of what they’ve never seen?” The song also made it to the Billboard Top 100.

Opening the show is another alternative artist, Mary Lambert, a pianist, singer-songwriter, and poet. Lambert, who splits her time between the Valley and Seattle, won national attention in 2012 as the writer and singer of the chorus of the rap-based “Same Love,” which became a popular anthem about marriage equality, earning two Grammy nominations.

Lambert, who struggled to reconcile coming out as a lesbian while growing up in an evangelical home, has had some other hit songs, scored music for film, and hosts a queer and mental health podcast with her spouse, Dr. Wyatt Paige Hermansen.


In case you’ve forgotten, two major music festivals will be vying for attention next weekend in Easthampton. Millpond.Live takes place at Millside Park Sept. 15 through 17, while the Arcadia Folk Festival will be staged Sept. 17 at Mass Audubon’s Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary.

This year, Millpond.Live features three distinct nights of music. Aug. 15 will be a showcase for groups from France, Switzerland and Ethiopia. Aug. 16 offers a slice of Americana, including the Young@Heart Chorus and the multi-instrumentalist Louis Cato, the bandleader for “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”

On Aug. 17, meantime, six artists from Ireland will perform on instruments ranging from guitar to fiddle to Uilleann pipes and tin whistle.

The festival, which runs from 6 to 10 p.m. each night is free, but attendees need to register in advance at the website to secure a spot on the grounds, as capacity is limited for health and safety. Donations are also welcome.

The Arcadia Folk Festival, which begins at 10 a.m. on Sept. 17 and runs all day, features a mix of regional and national artists, including The Suitcase Junket and rootsy singer-songwriter James McMurtry, the latter of whom will be playing with his band.

More music on tap

Pop-flavored singer/songwriter Jake Manzi will be joined by members of LuxDeluxe and other musical friends for an album release party at The Drake in Amherst Sept. 8 at 8 p.m. Folk rocker Wallace Field opens.

The Imagine Project is a reinterpretation by nine area musicians of the songs from John Lennon’s 1971 album of the same name. They’ll be at the Bombyx Center for Arts & Equity in Florence Sept. 9 at 8 p.m.

Also at Bombyx: A benefit concert for victims of the wildfires that devastated the island of Maui in Hawaii in August will bring Fiesta Rumbera, Masala Jazz, and John Sheldon to the arts center Sept. 10 at 6:30 p.m.

Boston’s Ward Hayden and The Outliers, known for their rock-flavored country & western sound, will offer their take on the music of Hank Williams at The Parlor Room in Northampton Sept. 15 at 7:30 p.m.

Remember the early ’80s New Wave hit (and accompanying MTV video) “I Melt With You” by Modern English? The band is still at it — they have a new single out, “Long in the Tooth” — and they’ll be at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield Sept. 16 at 8 p.m.

More indie music comes to The Drake Sept. 15 with Balien, made up of two fraternal twins and their younger sister, at 8 p.m. (Laura Elliot opens), and on Sept. 21 with an 8 p.m. “block party” featuring local faves Winterpills, Fancy Trash, and Original Cowards (the latter band has a new album due out soon).

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at