September 15, 2010

Blast from the Past: Guitar Heroes, from Feb. 2008

This was one of my favorite issues to design. I was messing around with a program called Comic Life and came up with the idea of a whole issue done in a comic book format. I was also working on an idea for a readers' poll to find out which guitarists -- other than the obvious choices -- were people listening to. The two ideas just seem to fit together really well. I also think the list that Modern Acoustic readers helped compile is pretty great. Check it out. If you have others, let me know.  A kind of funny note: The pic on the front is of Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes. I had recently gone to a concert in which he performed with Gillian Welch and David Rawlings so I was snapping a lot of pics. He actually did not make the list, but the picture fit so perfectly I had to go with it.

Check out the whole issue HERE

Capo Crusaders
Everyone knows the greats – Clapton, Page and Hendrix. But we asked Modern Acoustic subscribers to tells us – aside from the guitar gods – who are the ones that strike chords with you. And you responded with a list that is both extensive and expansive. The list includes the well-known and the obscure, it draws from rock to folk to world music, and covers both electric and acoustic realms. Descriptions like “the most tasteful licks in folk music” and “either pure genius or pure trash, you decide!” made this project a guitar-smashing success. We’ve provided links to all the guitarists so you can visit their websites and check them out.

So here, in your own words, is your list (in no particular order). Enjoy!

David Rawlings – Tasteful, innovative, effortless solos.
Kristin Hersh – Plays the hell out of the guitar whether it’s one of her beautiful Collings customs or her electric.
James Blackshaw – Acoustic instrumentals a la Robbie Basho.
Erin McKeown – Fresh sound, terrific technically, interesting lyrics. An absolutely breathtaking instrumentalist; whether she is improvising on a jazz tune, creating a new sound for one of her own, or accompanying, she has a unique and exhilarating sound; she makes it seem so effortless.
Sonny Landreth – Who other guitar players love to watch, even while conceding that they can’t really cadge from what he does, because it’s singular.
Vince Gill – With his songwriting, performing and vocal skills, his guitar talent gets overlooked. I’ve regularly been amazed by his casually skilled riffs.
Ani DiFranco – She plays, plucks and beats the heck out of her guitar.
David Hidalgo – Los Lobos is perhaps the most unfamous band performing regularly for more than three decades. Its most-often-lead guitarist is similarly underappreciated.
D’Gary – a Madagascaran who plays mostly acoustic, though I find his electric work even more thrilling. You might often think there are two guitarists playing, but he’s the only one.
Duke Levine and Kevin Barry – They are recording studio quality guys who justlove to play; Duke is one who rarely takes the main role, but he’s a backbone for so much great music.
Mike Castellana (formerly) of Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles – On both electric and pedal steel, he is tasteful and ferocious, sometimes at the same time.
David West – Simply brilliant melodies, in both his original compositions and as lead guitarist for others. He has the ability to get the sweetest sound from a guitar.
Nina Gerber – The most astounding and tasteful licks in folk music. She just adds magic to whomever she is playing with.
Blake Sennett of the Elected and Rilo Kiley – He is so comfortable wailing like Page, yes, or scruffing the edges like Elliott Smith or Nick Drake. His instincts are unexpected and right on.
Patty Griffin – She is hailed mainly for her vocal and songwriting talents – which are exceptional – but her guitar playing is subtly complex. She plays the guitar just how she plays her vocal chords: intricate, fluttering, also brick-solid.
Richard Thompson – He’s underrated on every level. His songwriting and guitar playing are amazing. This man can take you from 0 to 180 in seconds and then lull you to tears with a gorgeous Celtic-inspired ballad the next.
Chris Smither – Great acoustic blues guitarist, who plays with passion.
John Hammond Jr. – Yet another amazing blues guitarist.
Rodrigo y Gabriela – This Mexican duo is lightning fast and precise. Great guitar work.
Trace Bundy – He’s very flashy, actually, but also very interesting.
Jerry Miller of Eilen Jewell’s band – He is a guitar master and the most tasteful player alive.
John Mayer – His guitar work on “Continuum” was awesome.
The Edge of U2 – Has always had one of the most clearly recognizable sounds, like the ringing of a bell.
Jonny Buckland of Coldplay – The right texture for their particular brand of haunting music.
Jack White of the White Stripes – It’s either pure genius or pure trash, you decide.
Willy Porter – He’s incredibly dynamic live.
Derek Trucks – A guitar god without the attitude. A monster on slide guitar covering a wide range of styles – from Southern rock to world beat.
Phil Wandscher of Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter – His electric-guitar lines whine, moan and wreak havoc on your brain ... in a good way.
Eliot Fisk – The classical guitarist extraordinaire is able to merge technical challenges of Bach while bringing forth a beautiful lyricism.
Prince – His funky licks are electric. Someone once called them “delightfully masturbatory.” That about says it all.
Jackie Greene – He blows me away with his talents on the guitar and seemingly every other instrument available on the stage. He also has a great voice.
Austin Nevins of Josh Ritter’s band – He has been the go-to guy for so many Boston locals. He’s one who flies under the radar – until he takes the stage and starts playing.
David Jacobs-Strain – He is a mainstage performer, known both for his remarkable guitar work, and his penetrating vocals.
Also receiving mention: Leo Kottke, Alexi Murdoch, Damien Rice, Julian Coryell, Nils Lofgren, Joe Satriani, Mark Knopfler, Bryan Lee, Otis Taylor, Keller Williams.

League of Legends
Where would rock music be without these great guitarists? Not only have they been around for decades dazzling us with their riffs, they basically created what is now called “Classic Rock” and are still performing today.

Carlos Santana
Neil Young
B.B. King
John Fogerty
Jeff Beck
Bonnie Raitt
Stephen Stills
Joni Mitchell
Eric Clapton
Steve Winwood

The (guitar) gods must be crazy
Our top guitar gods, and their songs that make us bow down

Jimi Hendrix,“Little Wing” – Probably not the song most would choose as a Hendrix guitar masterpiece. But his licks here are just so tasteful.

Duane Allman, “Black-Hearted Woman” – Tough choice here. There are so many great solos, but this is Duane at his nastiest, just ripping through the song.

Stevie Ray Vaughn, “Cold Shot” – Again, others will probably think there are better tunes, especially for his soloing. But we love the groove here, and when Stevie lets loose ... it’s controlled mayhem.

Eric Clapton,“Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad” – We gave this away earlier in the issue. This and “Layla” are probably two of the most urgent love songs ever. But this one is by far the best as Clapton and Duane Allman duel it out in a wild guitar-solo frenzy.

Jimmy Page, “D’yer Mak’er” – Again, not Page at his wildest. But what we love about his guitar playing is what you hear underneath the bombast of Zeppelin songs. He filled out those tunes with amazing licks. Check out the quieter numbers and really listen to the guitar.

Rolling Stone's great guitarists
In case you were wondering, here is Rolling Stone’s list, from 2003, of the top 30 of “The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.”
1 Jimi Hendrix
2 Duane Allman of the Allman Brothers Band
3 B.B. King
4 Eric Clapton
5 Robert Johnson
6 Chuck Berry
7 Stevie Ray Vaughan
8 Ry Cooder
9 Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin
10 Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones
11 Kirk Hammett of Metallica
12 Kurt Cobain of Nirvana
13 Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead
14 Jeff Beck
15 Carlos Santana
16 Johnny Ramone of the Ramones
17 Jack White of the White Stripes
18 John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers
19 Richard Thompson
20 James Burton
21 George Harrison
22 Mike Bloomfield
23 Warren Haynes
24 The Edge of U2
25 Freddy King
26 Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave
27 Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits
28 Stephen Stills
29 Ron Asheton of the Stooges
30 Buddy Guy

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