If you’ve ever seen him live, you’ll know why Greg Koch made our list.
Top 10 Unsung Guitarists
By Pauline France and Jeff Owens
Everyone has seen the many top-guitarist lists touted by magazines, TV shows and various websites. Most people can even name several if not most of the players appearing in these often-predictable lists.
For a change of pace then, we’ve compiled a list of ten cutting-edge guitarists — from up-and-comers to seasoned pros who aren’t widely known by name — whose names rarely appear on the usual top-gun lists, but whose talents nonetheless merit widespread recognition as we see (and hear) it.
Doyle Bramhall II. A bona fide badass with or without a guitar, Bramhall has toured with Roger Waters, Eric Clapton and his own long-acclaimed Austin outfit, the Arc Angels. Further, his sultry vocals complement his well-turned six-string phrasing to perfection, with a nonchalant stage presence that that belies his considerable chops.
Tyler Bryant. This six-string virtuoso may be young, but he’s already toured the world and opened for acts including Jeff Beck, Aerosmith, Joe Bonamassa, B.B. King, Pat Benatar and others. Bryant was featured in award-winning 2009 film Rock Prophecies along with Carlos Santana and Slash, and as if that wasn’t impressive enough, his composition “Who I Am” appears in popular video game Guitar Hero® 5. Watch him engage in an explosive call-and-response performance with Jeff Beck right here:
Jim Campilongo. Odds are nobody’s gonna bring you Jim Campilongo’s stunning guitar work (most often realized on a Telecaster), so you’re gonna have to go to it, but it’s not that hard to find and you will be oh so richly rewarded. He’s an unbelievably dazzling player who has amassed a handful of solo albums and a seemingly endless wealth of studio credits, but we’ll bet that little if any of it is in your iPod. Your best bet for reasonably visible exposure are his two delightful (and fairly recent) albums with the Little Willies, the uber-hip New York country band he plays in with Norah Jones.
Bill Frisell. By masterfully blending elements of jazz, classical music, folk, and a great deal more, Frisell stands out as a master of the instrument revered by a small but devout following. He’s quite possibly a genius, as anyone who’s heard him would undoubtedly attest, but more widespread acclaim has nonetheless remained elusive.
Greg Koch. Experiencing the towering Greg Koch live is like simultaneously going to a rock concert and a stand-up comedy club. His dizzying instrumental prowess is second to none, and good luck keeping a straight face if you’re anywhere near the guy. He’s that good, and he’s that funny, too.
Michael Landau. You very likely have not heard of Michael Landau, but make no mistake: You have heard Michael Landau. An astounding and remarkably versatile player, Landau is a highly prolific session vet who racked up credits on hundreds (if not thousands) of major label releases throughout the 1980s and 1990s, including albums by artists as varied as Pink Floyd, Miles Davis, Michael Jackson, Joni Mitchell, Bonnie Raitt, B.B. King, James Taylor, Belinda Carlisle, Ray Charles, Rod Stewart, Neil Diamond, Seal, and only about a few hundred others. He’s as busy today as ever, and now you kind of sort of know who he is, which is cool because—believe us—the guy has more than earned it.
Buddy Miller. Buddy Miller isn’t exactly a household name, but his many collaborators sure are — he’s shared stage and studio alike with greats such as Robert Plant, Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris and many others. Miller plays country and Americana with enough edge and authenticity to keep his music classic yet fresh.
Paul Pigat. With breathtaking and versatile command of the instrument, Paul Pigat is like something out of this world. Although rockabilly chops are his dazzling forte, he’s perfectly at home in so many genres and styles that it’s hard to pin him down with one particular label.
Phillip Sayce. Canadian blues phenom Sayce recently released fourth studio album Steamroller, which is positively overflowing with captivatingly punchy tracks that’ll have you playing suitably soulful air guitar and singing along before you know it.
Alex Scally (Beach House). There’s something most captivating about this indie rocker’s playing — could it be his impeccable ability to play just the right notes at just the right time at just the right tempo? The synergy between the vocals and Scally’s melodic phrasing is simply spectacular and makes for a soothing musical experience.
Did we leave anyone off this list in your opinion? Tell us your unsung guitar heroes on our Facebook page.