The Blog

  • Rich Kassirer

Capo Crusaders!! (A Modern Acoustic readers' poll)

Updated: Aug 7, 2018

David Rawlings
David Rawlings

Everyone knows the greats – Clapton, Page and Hendrix.

But we asked Modern Acoustic subscribers to tells us – aside the guitar gods –

who are the ones that strikes 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 just love to play; Duke is one who rarely takes the main role, but he’s a backbone for so much great music.

Mike Castellana 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 balled 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 and Keller Williams.


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

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.

Stevie Ray Vaughan, “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.

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.

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 tunesnwith amazing licks. Check out the quieter numbers and really listen to the guitar.

1 view0 comments