On this rich, diverse collection of duets, Emmanuel and Billy Strings get right to it with an exuberant medley of Doc Watson’s “Doc’s Guitar/Black Mountain Rag.” Emmanuel’s free-flowing fingerstyle kicks things off, followed by Strings and his flawless flatpicking. He and Mavericks vocalist Raul Malo create a nuanced, reflective, rendition of the pop ballad “Faraway Places.” Yasmin Williams brings her distinctive picking skills to “Mombasa.”
Jerry Douglas and Emmanuel create a gorgeous, ethereal interpretation of the original instrumental “Mama Knows.” The guitarist (who overdubbed multiple instruments on some numbers) and Jamey Johnson infuse Merle Haggard’s “Daddy Frank (The Guitar Man),” with a spirit close to Haggard’s 1970 original. He and Richard Smith create a breakneck duet on “Son of a Gun,” while the stately “Precious Time” features flawless interaction with bluegrass-mandolin star Sierra Hull.
Molly Tuttle joins Emmanuel for a burning, buoyant “White Freight Liner Blues.” Turning to flatpicking, he teams with the Del McCoury Band for a swinging take on Merle Travis’ ’40s hit “Sweet Temptation.” Unaccompanied, he and mandolin hero David Grisman dive headfirst into the Benny Goodman/Charlie Christian standard “Seven Come Eleven.” Many “all-star” collaborations offer more hype than music. Not this joyful, thoroughly substantive effort.
This article originally appeared in VG’s June 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.