So you don’t like country music?
I was once like you. My holier-than-thou jazz school attitude and years of being exposed to bad country music that mirrored Jerry Springer episodes taught me better than to give country music a chance. Fortunately my jazz school was in Texas. After graduating I truly realized the importance of being a versatile guitarist- this meant playing country. While I am still far from a chicken pickin’ master I have found a great appreciation for country guitar playing. It fuses elements of jazz, blues, bluegrass, soul, and sheer technicality. I would go so far as to say that country guitarists are some of the best guitarists of all time. While the lyrical content and vocal twang don’t always connect with me the music can be astonishing. Remember, country has many sub-genres and a lifetime could be spent studying a single player’s style.
Here are 10 of the greatest country music guitarists to check out now:
1. Brent Mason
Brent Mason is one of my favorites. As a Nashville veteran he has recorded with artists like Chet Atkins, George Straight, Alan Jackson, Shania Twain, Brooks & Dunn, Zac Brown Band, and more. Seriously, check out this list of his credits– its crazy.
2. Albert Lee
3. Brad Paisley
I’m sure you’ve heard of Brad Paisley but you may not realize how amazing of a guitarist he really is. Paisley is a “triple threat” of sorts as a guitarist, singer, and songwriter. Check out his primarily instrumental album Play.
The video quality is terrible but the solo is crazy. Solo starts at 1:35.
4. Johnny Hiland
Legally blind guitarist Johnny Hiland has recorded with Toby Keith, Ricky Skaggs, Hank 3, and more. He has also put out a lot of educational videos on YouTube and JamTrack Central with 20 Favourite Country Licks.
5. Danny Gatton
Here is another player that is fluent in many styles- chicken’ pickin’ certainly being one of those.
This is more blues than country but has some nasty tele licks.
An amazing line up here with some killer playing by Danny Gatton out front.
6. Jerry Reed
Jerry Reed is amous for his singing and acting as well as his guitar playing. Definitely one of the seminal guitarists in classic country.
7. Merle Travis
Such an influential player that he has an entire instrumental style named after him (“Travis Picking”). Merle Travis’ playing is a study in rhythm guitar and solo guitar styles.
8. Redd Volkaert
Volkaert is a monster player. He has recorded with Merle Haggard, Ray Price, and more.
Eric Johnson sounds… okay… here. Redd solos right after him and it is night and day. The fact that a monster guitarist such as Eric Johnson is struggling to sound good just shows how difficult and involved this style of guitar playing really is.
9. Vince Gill
Another super famous country superstar who is actually a top notch guitarist.
Solo at 2:04
Solo at 2:40
10. Pete Anderson
Most well known as the musical partner to Dwight Yokam, Pete Anderson is also well regarded as a producer. Check out his amazing guitar playing:
Check out solo at 1:27- fills throughout are also killer.
First guitar solo starts at 0:54 and second solo starts at 2:01
Some additional suggested listening:
Leon Rhodes, Guthrie Trapp, Chet Atkins, Buddy Miller, Danny Gatton, Doyle Dykes, Greg Koch, Buck Owens, Mark O’Connor, Grady Martin, Paul Franklin, Jerry Douglas, Steve Wariner, Hank Garland, Daniel Donato, Tom Bukovac, James C. Mitchell, Kenny Greenberg, JT Corenflos, Dan Huff, Sol Philcox, JD Simo, David Grissom, and James Burton.
Who would you add to this list?