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Underrated guitar players

Posted on Nov 26, 2009 by billsimmon in guitar, music | 4 Comments

CaseyContrarian is compiling some year-end lists about music for his blog from some of the blog’s contributors, of which I’m one. Along with some best-of lists, Casey asked us to consider who our favorite underrated guitar players are. Here’s what I wrote to him in an email. Your thoughts, Candleblog readers?

Underrated guitarists:

Bruce Cockburn – amid the pretentious sing-talking poetry about rain-forests and rocket launchers, this guy plays some fucking amazing acoustic guitar. His folksy stuff from 1970-1974 is some of the best acoustic folk guitar playing you can find from that era. Cockburn is of the caliber of the John Fahey Tokoma Records troupe, but rarely associated with the other finger-picking masters from the time.

Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull) – Again, for his acoustic playing. Listen to the acoustic work on Aqualung (the album, not the song) — that’s all Anderson. He was great. Flute schmute.

Paul McCartney – the best guitar player in the Beatles.

Buck Dharma (Blue Oyster Cult) – I’ll let Casey tell everyone why.

Walter Becker (though Steely Dan had so many sit-in players, I’m never sure who’s playing what when).

whoever the guitar player in Ram Jam was. I just heard Black Betty on the radio and that guy rocked it.

You should do an overrated guitar player list!



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  1. On November 28, 2009, Rob said:

    Bill Bartlett was the Ram Jam guitarist who reworked an old Leadbelly tune into Black Betty.

    I was a huge Cult fan in my youth, and where as I’m still impressed with his writing and studio work, Buck Dharma is pretty rough these days. I’ve seen them twice in the last several years and was unmoved.

    Frank Marino still tours the north with his band Mahogany Rush pumping out totally unrehearsed, off the cuff, blistering solos. He is truly amazing.

    Jason Becker. Check out Perpetual Burn.

    Allan Holdsworth is the only guy besides Jeff Beck who can bend a note so wrong, its right. Masterful jazz fusion.

    Most overrated? Eric Clapton once told an interviewer that the flashy style of guitarist Eddie VanHalen was more show than talent. Okay, so I guess we’ll never see Eric doing arpeggiated sweeps, multi-finger taps, or pick muted harmonics, but we’ll never hear him do it either. I probably pissed someone off with that, but trust me, Clapton is not God.

  2. I saw Buck recently, too, and I agree — he’s not where he once was. But who is? Besides Jeff Beck, that is. PS: our Contrarian list(s) are in full force. Still waiting for Bill’s best o’ the decade picks… nudge. ;-)

  3. On December 4, 2009, jvwalt said:

    If you like Cockburn’s guitar and don’t like his words — which can be preachy at times, but insightful at others and always deeply felt — you should check out “Speechless,” an all-instrumental CD released a few years ago.

  4. On December 5, 2009, billsimmon said:

    Yes, Speechless is good. I wish some of his other instrumentals were on there as well, but it’s a good album.

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