Friday, July 31, 2009

A Few Contemporary Guitar Wizards

Most that read this blog by now realize I enjoy roots guitarists and the multiple genres they work in. Although most of my interest focuses on players who are no longer with us, I can't help but take notice of some of the incredibly gifted guitarists who seem to consistently stretch the boundaries of possibility on this incredible instrument. Since any choices I include here will reflect either my own bias or ignorance of more gifted players, please don't take offense if one of your favorites has been excluded. Rather, take the opportunity to comment and share your knowledge or perspective with all the readers. Also note that my choice of categories is also somewhat arbitrary, but they do conform to the parameters of "roots music" in a broad sense. I have also included "country" as a category in part because there are some gifted and fascinating players.

Jazz: There are a few patriarchs still alive today: the legendary Les Paul who still plays at the Iridium every other week or so, Joe Pass, also a consummate player, and a score of up and coming younger players like James Muller, the incredible Mimi Fox, and the sublime work of John Stowell. For my money, there is nobody playing today that has anything on Scotty Anderson, a fierce talent who combines elements of western swing and jazz with a vicious right hand and five fingered right hand approach. Scotty is simply an unbelievable player. Check out his chops on "It Don't Mean a Thing" in tandem with Bob Saxton. In a more traditional jazz setting, listen to Scotty on "Taking the A Train." Superb.

Electric Blues: There are really a lot of excellent players in this genre, including the patriarchs Buddy Guy and Johnny Winter. Some of the "younger players" are veritable forces in their own right, including Junior Watson, Ronnie Baker Brooks , Jimmy Thackery and Duke Robillard. The youngest is Danny Gatton disciple Joe Bonamassa, a tenacious and upcoming talent. Incredible player.

Acoustic Blues: This one is difficult and my bias is bound to show. I do think John Miller's knowledge and execution of the diversity in country blues is unmatched. Listen to John teach Bo Carter's "My Babe" here. That said, I think Kelly Joe Phelps plays flawlessly with a hell of a lot of soul. Check out his "Window Grin."

Acoustic: Tommy Emanuel doing "Guitar Boogie." What more can I say about this?

Country: Some of the very finest country guitar is being played today as players are drawing from jazz and country swing to expand the boundaries of the genre. The patriarch here might be Albert Lee, followed by Redd Volkaert, known for his association with Merle Haggard. Of the younger players, Johnny Hiland is outstanding as is the popular Brad Paisley, featured here with a constellation of country players on "Cluster Pluck." I do think that consummate Nashville player today is Brent Mason; those inclined to disagree please to comment. An up and coming force in Nashville is the multi-talented Guthrie Trapp, heard here on electric lead. Amazing chops.

Rockabilly:Undoubtedly, primarily for being one of the founders of the genre, James Burton is the patriarch here. Among the younger players, the talented Brian Setzer has received the most notoriety, but Jinx Jones - here, and Pete Gorilla heard here are genuine talents, as is the incredible Cousin Harley performing live here doing an amazing cover of Western Swing legend Billy Jack Wills' "Feelin Bad."

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