- Category: TOP TEN OF EVERYTHING
- Written by Bill Hurley
Here's our list of The Alternate Root Magazine's Top American Roots Guitar Players. There's probably 100 guitar players that could have been on this list that appear on every "Best Guitar Player List." These are our favorites. The one's we write about; one's we've worked with on Alternate Root TV or we've interviewed here. They're our guys and gals and all of them can play. Chances are we've forgotten a few and we're counting on our readers to remind us of who's supposed to be here.
1. Kenny Vaughan - Marty Stuart Band, solo - One of the most, if not 'the' most in demand session players in Nashville, Kenny Vaughan is an absolute monster player that is in a league with just a few others on this list. Combining the most eclectic, fringe elements of jazz, punk, rock, country and whatever else into his unique style and combining it with near flawless technique is what sets Vaughan apart from most.
2. Will Kimbrough - Emmylou Harris Band, solo - Kimbrough's work with Rodney Crowell and Emmylou Harris is well documented. His solo work is equally compelling and as one of the top producers in the American Roots music world you can find him on a slew of other really good records. He can play any style from blues to country, rock to soul and everything in between.
3. Richard Thompson - solo - One of the founding members of Fairport Convention, Thompson has spent most of his career in relative public obscurity save guitar heads and critics. Guitar people have known about Richard Thompson for decades and critics have been heaping praise on Richard Thompson for both his playing and his writing for nearly as long. His mark is on more music than most anyone on this list. Probably the best folk guitarist in history.
4. Buddy Miller - Band of Joy, solo - Like Will Kimbrough, Buddy Miller appears on more recordings than can be listed here. He's worked as a guitar player for Steve Earle, Robert Plant, John Fogerty, Patty Griffin, Emmylou Harris, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Linda Rostadt. His solo work is at times breathtaking and at other time a bit puzzling but never typical. Miller is just downright brilliant.
5. Colin Linden - Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, solo - One of the true virtuoso players on our list. A scholar of the roots of the guitar, from earliest recordings of blues and jazz to folk and country, Colin Linden was called upon by T-Bone Burnett to help produce the soundtrack for "Oh Brother Where Art Thou." He's one of the top American Roots producers in Canada and the U.S. and has a guitar playing resume that would take up more space than we have here.
6. Bill Kirchen -solo - One of the most respected and acclaimed players of the last few decades Kirchen may be best known for work with Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen but his work over the past 30+ years is more impressive. His version of "Hot Rod Lincoln" where he rips into a solo for every guitar god hero is amazing.
7. Pete Anderson - solo - He's a bad-ass player. He's a bad-ass producer who created the sound for Dwight Yoakam, k.d. Lang, Michelle Shocked and even the latter-day Roy Orbison. If you don't know him as a player you don't know the half of it.
8. Derek Trucks - Tedeschi Trucks Band - The nephew of Allman Brothers great Butch Trucks, Derek Trucks first appeared on stage with Buddy Guy and The Allman Brothers at age 12. One of the best slide players out there right now, Trucks is heavily influenced by Buddy Guy, Elmore James and the like but his style incorporates blues, rock, soul and classic jazz elements.
9. Raul Malo - Mavericks, Los Super Seven, solo - Raul Malo may be more well known for his incredible voice than his guitar playing but he should never be overlooked as one of the top American Roots guitar players. His work with the Mavericks, Los Super Seven and as a solo artist contains some incredibly good guitar playing by any standards. See him live playing jazz, blues, country, Tejano, rockabilly and you'll get the picture.
10. Junior Brown - Junior Brown Band - Junior Brown is so good he needed to have a guitar invented just for him and the "guit-steel" was born. He's incendiary style blends Western Swing, honky-tonk, Bakersfield country and Texas blues often in the same solo.
11. Patterson Hood - Drive By Truckers - The power behind one of the powerhouse American Roots bands Patterson Hood is actually more Clash than Cash. The Drive By Truckers are one of the few roots bands that when it's all said and done, will have done pretty well.
12. Eric “Roscoe” Ambel - Del Lords, Steve Earle Band, solo - He's more into producing and engineering now than when he was barnstorming for Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, The Del-Lords or Steve Earle but "Roscoe" shows up in rare form on a lot of really cool recordings from bands like the New Heathens, Jimbo Mathus and the Tri-State Coalition and DL Marble. Ambel is a great guitar player...period.
13. Rosie Flores - Rosie Flores Band - The "Rockabilly Filly" broke the glass ceiling for female guitar players right along with Bonnie Raitt and Patti Smith, just to a different crowd. She's the "Queen of Twang" and one of the pre-eminent figures in the Austin Alt-Country music scene. She's fun, she's good and she looks great at 63. Her work with Pete Anderson on her debut album drew major critical acclaim.
14. Mark Robinson - Mark Robinson Band - He can shred, pick, bend and slide with the best of them. Robinson has a resonant tone that would fall somewhere between Albert King and Ronnie Earl but has developed into pure Mark Robinson. Only two solo efforts to date but both have garnered high praise for Robinson's guitar work.
15. Devon Allman -Royal Southern Brotherhood, Devon Allman's Honeytribe - The son of Gregg Allman and another example of the fruit not falling far from the tree, Devon Allman has the chops of his father and the soul of his uncle. In his case the soul is what makes him great. His blues are hard edged and spacious; making each note count rather than counting how many notes there were. An awful lot of Allman Brothers Band offspring are making great music. Makes you wonder about the effects of sex and srugs.
16. Sergio Webb - David Olney, solo - Sergio Webb can be seen on a stage in Nashville making someone sound good most any night. He's a great picker of just about anything that has strings on it. Webb is a throwback to the old-style country guitar player like Chet Atkins or Les Paul.
17. Seth Walker - solo - Seth Walker started as a cellist at the age of three growing up with classicly trained musicians as parents. His clean soul-jazz-pop sound has garnered some high praise critically both as a skillful player and soulful singer. He's paved the way for a host of blues/soul performers in the Americana Roots movement. His cool west-coast tone is reminiscent of Wes Montgomery.
18. Martin Sexton - solo - His playing is a lot studio tricks and loops but since he's playing all of it and putting it together in some sort of predetermined sequences we'll have to call that innovative and highly skilled playing. Not your dad's "folkie," Martin Sexton is a gifted player that experiments outside the lines.
19. Chris Hersch - Girls, Guns and Glory - The lead guitar slot in Girls, Guns and Glory has been a bit of a revolving door and the predecessors to Chris Hersch have all been pretty solid. That said, none of them can stand with the current "lead chair." Hersch's work on "Sweet Nothings," the latest effort from GGG is astounding.
20. Garrett Lebeau - solo - He's a young guy from rural Wyoming that resides in Austin every now and again. An enigma of sorts, Lebeau posesses an almost majestic tone and incendiary improvisational skill. His playing is a combination of bluesey soul and jazz in a gospel wash. Infectious is a good way to describe Garrett Lebeau's music.
21. Colin Thompson - Randy Thompson Band - Who? From where? At 15 he had chops it should have taken 40 years to develop. Randy Thompson is a known entity in many Americana/Alt-Country circles especially in Europe but his son Colin might end up as the one who scores it big. Now 19, He's a sponge for style and technique and by the time he hits middle age he could be the best player on this list.