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[2019-09-05] Power Trio: 3 Country Guitarists Rockers Need To Hear

Power Trio: 3 Country Guitarists Rockers Need To Hear

09/05/2019 12:00 PM

By Dan Amrich

Some rock fans turn their nose up at country, the genre hides a lot of players who shred just as spectacularly as the greats of metal and progressive rock – albeit in a different accent. Here's three players rock fans should step across the state line to hear.

Brad Paisley
Did you know the guy from those insurance commercials is so good at guitar, it was once considered a career liability? "My label was concerned that I wouldn’t be considered as a contender for superstardom because I was more of a musician," he said. Mellow ballads like "Whiskey Lullaby" made him a star, but they hide the fact that Brad – influenced by Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and the Rolling Stones – plays like his Telecaster is on fire. The slippery leads and tasteful fills throughout the joyously smutty "Ticks" prove he's comfortable anywhere on the fretboard (and he can do it live, too). His sixth album, Play, is a love letter to guitar; its instrumental all-star jam "Cluster Pluck" won a Grammy and was described by one fan as "Eddie Van Halen on cornbread." If you still need some rocker cred, note of Scott Ian's joyous smile and Nuno Bettencourt's "whoo!" reaction as Paisley takes his scorching solo during the Game of Thrones jam.


John Jorgenson
Before Elton John asked him to go on tour for six years in the late 90s, John Jorgenson was already a legend for his work with the Desert Rose Band and the Hellecasters, which is what happens when you let three of the best pickers have whatever fun they want. John drives the first two minutes of the Hellecasters' jaw-dropping 7-minute version of the bluegrass classic "Orange Blossom Special" (he casually quotes the Beatles in one live version). Jorgenson is a multi-instrumentalist and is a lifelong student of gypsy-jazz pioneer Django Reinhardt; he also recorded an entire album where each track was written specifically for and played on a different vintage guitar. Many of those veer squarely into rock.


Danny Gatton
Is it fair to call Danny Gatton a country guitarist when he was diversity personified? Equally astonishing at jazz, rock, bluegrass, and just about anything else he tried, Danny's peers dubbed him "The Humbler" – he was simply better than anyone. Gone too soon in 1994, Gatton enjoyed spending time with his family and with classic cars; he was not terribly interested in recording or travel, which hampered his commercial success. But he left us with a few eclectic albums that illustrate how his rockabilly reputation was anything but limiting. His version of "Harlem Nocturne" became a signature, and his interpretation of Danny Elfman's theme to "The Simpsons" exemplifies Gatton's wanton genre disobedience, but songs like the aptly titled "So Good" put his playing in a 12-bar context that should go down easy for fans of roots rock. Slash, Buckethead, and Steve Vai all consider themselves fans – and hell, when Les Paul says you're good, who would dare argue?


Dan Amrich started his music journalism career at Guitar World and Country Guitar magazines and is the co-creator of Princess Leia's Stolen Death Star Plans. He joined the Rocksmith team in 2014.

Brad Paisley at Naval Station Mayport by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Toiete Jackson is in the public domain.

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