Saturday, October 3, 2009

OPINION: Who is Your Pick For the Best Guitarist Ever?

By Mike Faulk

Since music is such a subjective and personal experience, there is really no way to make any sort of meaningful determination of who is the best at anything. But we all have our favorites.

Those of us that love the guitar and the incredible sounds that come from it usually have our favorites as well. There are those two or three players that just move us. Their playing speaks to us. We can feel the emotion coming off of the strings as surely as if they were sitting down one on one with us and pouring out their hearts. It's almost as if we become part of the music.

A great portion of what passes for talent today is sad, really. Kids don't have that much to lock on to, at least stuff that will still be heard when they are old guys like me. I'm really happy that my sons, 11 and 15, both really like "my music".

I like a lot of musical styles; rock, country, some jazz ... but what really gets to me is the blues. A really strong, slow blues guitar will take me away from all my worries, all my cares. There are and have been a lot of really great blues guitar players over the years, as well as great players in other genres. Without going through the list of greats, there are a couple I'd like to mention.

My favorite current guitarist of any genre is Eric Clapton. There are those who say he's too commercialized, but I disagree. Popular and successful - without question. But I think the reason for that is because he is so amazingly good at what he does. He truly feels the blues when he plays. I've seen him live only once and it was incredible. His live performance of "River of Tears" on the "One More Car One More Rider" album is maybe the best pure playing I've ever heard.

Right there with Clapton is my other favorite - Duanne Allman. It was truly a loss to the musical world when he died so young; we can only imagine what might have come if he had continued. What he accomplished in his short time with us has stood the test of time. I believe him to be the greatest slide guitarist ever.

By the way, my favorite band of all time is the Allman Brothers Band. I don't know of any band who has ever has the consistent collection of pure musical talent on the stage at the same time. If you have never seen them - go. Just go. While you still can. The current lineup with Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks is just as good as any they have ever had. Strong words from a true fan I know, especially in the company of Duanne and Dicky Betts - but they are that good. Both Haynes and Trucks earn very, very high ratings in my book. When I saw Clapton live Derek Trucks was with him. Incredible.

I don't want to ramble on, but I can't end this part of what I hope will be a discussion without talking about Robert Johnson. His writing, creativity and playing are beyond description. But the truly amazing part about him is the greats he influenced, and how readily they all give credit to him.

Anyway, there is my two cents worth. There are many greats I'm intentionally leaving out, because I want to hear about them from you. I'd really like to hear the thoughts and opinions of others. What do you think?

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