Notice that these men are my “favorite” guitarists. I’m not saying that these guys are “the best” guitarisits in the world. However, if I was forced to sit down and give you a list of the players that have most influenced me as well as the ones that continue to captivate my ears and attention unlike anyone else, these five would be the blue-ribbon winners. I know that there’s an unbalanced mixture on this list and that a more consistent list would be one that was appropriately divided along the lines of acoustic versus electric, but still, the list caters to my overall, favorite guitarists which transcend genre, type of guitar, and even seasons (different weather calls for certain tastes, however I listen to these guys year ’round).
For instance, it doesn’t matter what time of year it is, there is just a feeling that I get when I put on Tony Rice’s album, Me & My Guitar and listen to those first few minutes of blistering licks, where at one point the recording picked him up “grunting” as he puts on a flatpicking school in every solo. Moreover, in my opinion there are few that rival the sheer precision and tone of David Gilmour’s guitar work with Pink Floyd and even in some of his solo work. He has one of the most unique guitar styles that I have ever heard. He is the one guitar player that is almost impossible to imitate. I’ve heard others, and even myself, try and reproduce his sound, but all second-hand versions are immediately noticeable compared to the authenticity of the original. I won’t say much about Phil Keaggy; I’ve already told of my love for him many times on this blog and you can find my comments and reviews of his records throughout. All I can say is that if you ever get a chance to see him in concert, don’t miss out. He’s from another world; no human should be able to play that well.
With respect to Eric Clapton, do I even need to clarify? The man has been the motivation for a lot of people to learn and play the guitar. I spent many years in high school and college trying to nail down his soloing techniques. Sadly enough, I’ve never really mastered it because I have too many bad habits as a self-taught guitar player. But, Clapton has been my refuge for learning to play the guitar with “soul” whether or not I have managed to play at his level. In one documentary, I heard a blues-man, maybe Buddy Guy, say that Clapton says more in one bend than other guitarists can say in a hundred. Also, Gilmour said that he always admired Clapton’s vibrato and that his was the model that he tried to emulate.
Trey Anastasio is someone that I have only listened to probably since the last year of college and up until the present. Known mostly for his work with Phish, but Anastasio is a formidable guitarist in his own right apart from the band. In fact, his solo work is where I like to hear him the most, though I am lover of jam band music. Jam band music is only worth listening to if the musicians have the musical ability to sustain your attention preventing you from letting the music become merely a background serenade. When I first started listening to Anastasio play, I found myself wanting to hear every single note in a 30 minute piece. He has a style of his own that is explicity distinguishable with a nice touch of jazz, Jerry Garcia, and Carlos Santana. Plus, he has a cool, specialized guitar which is where he gets a lot of his tone and resonance. Here is my list which should be understood as tentative seeing how my interests change over the years, others fade away, and newcomers show their face and sweep me off my feet. I have also linked to some of their albums that I love to hear these guys best.
- Tony Rice – Albums: Manzanita; Me & My Guitar; Native American
- Phil Keaggy – Albums: Crimson & Blue; Beyond Nature; Jammed
- David Gilmour – Albums: Wish You Were Here; Pulse (2-Disc Live); On an Island
- Eric Clapton – Albums: Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs; Derek and the Dominoes: Live at the Filmore; 461 Ocean Boulevard; Me & Mr. Johnson
- Trey Anastasio – Albums: Plasma (2-Disc Live); Shine