It’s obvious that there are thousands upon thousands of great guitarists around the world, and many of them are considered to be among the all-time greats. We dedicate this list to possibly some lesser-known guitarists – or musicians not always appreciated for their plucking skills – that make up the next wave of guitar gods and goddesses. As such, you won’t find Jack White, Mike Mogis (although on this list , but you might find some other well-known indie artists).
While there are 12 guitarists listed, two pairs are nearly inseparable.
ADAM GRANDUCIEL (WAR ON DRUGS)
He’s not going to set the world, or any guitars for that matter on fire, but Adam Granduciel of The War On Drugs is one of the most talented guitarists out there. He has a knack for finding the perfect guitar part to set a mood in a song. He may be famous for his chill laid back style, but he’s also been known to rip it up on occasion. Here’s a live performance of one of the best tracks of the year, “Red Eyes” from their album of the year contender Lost In The Dream.
ANNIE CLARK (A.K.A. ST. VINCENT)
Annie Clark was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma but raised in Dallas, TX. After playing in The Polyphonic Spree and in Sufjan Stevens’ touring band, she struck out on her own in 2006 as St. Vincent. At only 32 she has collaborated with the likes of David Byrne and Bon Iver. She is known for her guitar solos during her live sets. Check out her guitar solo starting at 3:45 from her set at Glastonbury this year.
There was Jimi Hendrix. There’s Gary Clark, Jr. (see below). If people haven’t already, they’ll soon be uttering Benjamin Booker’s name in the same breath of these great guitarists. The 25-year old native from Orlando has an approach that is all New Orleans and pure blues rock. He’s one of the rising new artists on the scene, and his combination of searing rock and immense skills with the six string should see him have a long, storied career.
CARL BROEMEL & JIM JAMES (MY MORNING JACKET)
From My Morning Jacket’s first album, The Tennessee Fire, Jim James proved himself to be quite the capable guitarist. With songs like “It’s About Twilight Now” off The Tennessee Fire and “Honest Man” off of At Dawn, James’ talent was undeniable. With the addition of guitarist Carl Broemel to the band after the release of It Still Moves, My Morning Jacket’s live, and studio sound changed dramatically. Live, Broemel and James played off each other incredibly, creating a fury of guitar on songs like “One Big Holiday” and face melting intertwining solos like in “Lay Low”. Watch The Jacket rip into “Lay Low” from their Okonokos DVD below. And for a bonus, check out the second video, of Carl Broemel showing why he’s a master of the loop pedal.
GARY CLARK, JR.
This Austin native has been playing guitar since he was 12. He rose high in the Texas music scene as a teenager and has played alongside Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Sheryl Crow and The Rolling Stones. At 30 years old he has already won a Grammy and a Blues Music Award. He has plenty of accolades supporting his talent, and here is a stellar live performance from last year’s Crossroads festival.
JORDAN COOK (REIGNWOLF)
If you’re still looking for the next John Lee Hooker, don’t look much further than Jordan Cook who fronts the blues-rock trio Reignwolf. The native of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan has been blowing people’s minds (including yours truly) for the last few years with his scintillating blues-rock and masterful skills. He isn’t a guy that relies on 2 or 3 chords, but uses every string, every note and then some.
NELS CLINE (WILCO)
Wilco is one of the great American bands of the past twenty years without any question, and they’ve developed an immense following. But who is the first person you think of when you hear “Wilco”? We think the vast majority will say Jeff Tweedy, and, to be honest, we would, too. Whereas Tweedy may be the conductor of the Wilco train, Nels Cline is its engine. But what people may not know is that Cline isn’t just an alt-country and rock guitarist but one that is recognized among the best in experimental jazz. Cline is a master technician and noisemaker – two combinations which have put him at the top of today’s great guitar gods.
Quinn Sullivan is only 15 but he has major guitar skills and is reminiscent of other guitar greats that started young like Jonny Lang or Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Quinn has been playing the guitar since he was 3 years old so it’s no wonder he is now playing alongside guitar legends like Joe Bonamassa, Johnny Lang and touring with Buddy Guy. He owes much of his fame to Ellen DeGeneres who first had him on her show when he was just 6 years old. This isn’t the best recording, but a great jam session with Joe Bonamassa.
RODRIGO Y GABRIELA
The natural tendency when listing great guitarists is to name those that master the electric guitar. There are, however, plenty of musicians who are masterful with the acoustic guitar, and maybe none moreso than Mexico’s Rodrigo y Gabriela, who are able to create incredible sounds with their dueling acoustics and quick finger-plucking skills. If you haven’t seen them live, make it a priority of yours.
Steve Gunn has quietly played with some great artists, including as a member of Kurt Vile’s band The Violators. However, he’s a well-established guitar player, albeit one that has been overlooked for the better part of the last decade. His latest album, Way Out Weather, may bring him greater notoriety among indie music fans, but his guitar skills will mark him as one of the best guitarists of his generation.
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