The Blog

  • Rich Kassirer

Issue 19: Guitar Heroes

Updated: Aug 6, 2018


When we were kids growing up in the ’70s guitar-based rock was king. Bands like the Allman Brothers, Little Feat and Led Zeppelin fist-pumplingly ruled; we spent our money to see blues greats John Mayall and Albert King; and there was nothing better than the ripping, rocking guitar duel between Eric Clapton and Duane Allman on “Why Does Love Got to be So Sad.’’

By the ’80s, the guitar-god sound were all but history, replaced by the jangly rhythms of R.E.M. and then the grungy, layered guitar of Nirvana and Pearl Jam in the ’90s.

Despite the demise of the grandiose – if not self-indulgent – solo, we haven’t lost our love for a great guitar break. But we also appreciate the quieter, more tasteful licks that complement rather than carry a song. We’re just as happy hearing a great backing banjo as a screaming solo. Maybe our ears are getting older, or maybe we have refined our understanding of what skillful guitar playing is.

With this comes a new type of guitar hero: He or she may not leap tall buildings in a single bound or stop a bullet in their teeth, but they will always be there to save the day – by adding the perfect delicate lick or knocking out a short, nasty solo that strikes an emotional chord inside us.

We’ve been bombarded by the likes of Rolling Stone magazine and others with their lists of “The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.” Those lists always start, as they should, with Hendrix, Clapton, Page, Allman, Vaughan, etc., and fill out with other great blasters of the past. But they rarely acknowledge the many guitarists who, while they may not deliver the firepower, have the musical heart and soul.

So we asked our readers to put aside the guitar gods — alive and dead — and tell us which guitarists today make them stop and take notice when they play?

We think you’ll find the list fascinating: Some you’ll recognize immediately, some you won’t; some are solo artists, some play backup to singer-songwriters. All are accomplished players with something great to offer. The list cuts across many genres of music from rock to world beat, inspiring us to stretch beyond our musical borders.

So thanks to all for taking part. We’ve gotten to hear a lot of great guitarists we didn’t even know about.

Now, if we can only get that “Layla” solo out of our heads…


To see the full list from the Readers' Poll, click HERE.


SONGS THAT HELPED US SURVIVE THIS ISSUE

1. “Beat (Health, Life and Fire),” “We Brave Bee Stings and All,’’ Thao Nguyen. Energetic and fun. 2. “My Winding Wheel,” “Heartbreaker,” Ryan Adams. He’s got that alt-country thing down pat. 3. “On the Radio” “Fidelity,” Regina Spektor. Her eclectic songs are incredibly catchy. 4. “Stay on the Ride,” “Children Running Through,” Patty Griffin. Listening again to the whole album, and this song is a standout. 5. “To the Dogs or Whoever,” “The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter,” Josh Ritter. Bolstered by an exuberant appearance on Letterman.

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