EMPIRE MUSIC PROMOTIONS PRESENTS-TOP 11 GUITARISTS/SONGWRITERS OF TODAY
Since this is a brave new era of sensitive people, I want to make it clear that this is my list of personal favorite guitarist/songwriters of today, and it is not meant to take away from any other great artist out there making serious waves (so please, no angry letters about how I missed your favorite guitarist).
Acknowledging only the battle-hardened musicians, the ones that sell out stadiums and command legions of passionate followers, not to mention grace the cover of the ever-elusive Rolling Stone Magazine, would be a grave mistake, and only half the story of what is happening in the music industry itself. For this reason alone, this list of greatness will be divided into two sections, the first section of seven you most likely know, while the following three, you should get to know as soon as possible.
This list is not about one aspect of commanding the axe. It does not focus on who is the best technically, or who is the most creative, it is more to do with the sheer amount of overall skill and inspired momentum found within each of these amazing artists.
This is also a list that does not favor one incredible guitarist over another, so the numbers here are used to separate the musicians nice and neatly for you (You are welcome).
In the end, if all I have done here is turned a few more listeners on to these incredible musicians, then my work here is done.
So, without further ado, here we go!
TOP 7 GUITARISTS/SONGWRITERS YOU PROBABLY KNOW (OR SHOULD)
NUMBER 1-Jeff Martin (The Tea Party, 777)
If you have ever been lucky enough to be in the presence of this incredible musician originally from Windsor, Ontario, Canada, you no doubt have been rendered speechless by this musician’s ability to command his guitar (or rather, his MANY guitars). The way he dances through his elaborate riffs is somewhat spiritual in its delivery, as it feels otherworldly in its creation. Fans have drawn similarities between Led Zeppelin and Jim Morrison, but if you dig deeper than the surface here, you will find something vastly different from either of those brilliant musical entities.
Jeff Martin has proven over, and over again, that his ability to take chances with his own musical knowledge, by trusting his emotions to play the instrument in his hands, is second to none. Fearlessly treading a new path, on every album he works on, Jeff Martin has inspired an army of musicians to trust in their own creative process, to take more chances, and to step one foot even further into their own creative selves.
The one thing that presents itself on every album is the story told through his guitars. Every single album has a different sound, but a similar vision. Each great work released is an extension of his own developing abilities, and nothing feels as right as when Jeff Martin launches into his epic, emotionally charged, guitar solos, with a symphony playing behind him!
Best known for his critically-acclaimed band, the musical juggernaut known as The Tea Party, Jeff Martin has proven with his other project 777 (Triple Seven), that whatever he touches turns to musical gold.
There is not a list of best guitarists in the world that Jeff Martin should not be on, and those that do pan him, and his obvious incredible abilities, are simply only sharing a part of the truth to the public. The fact is, there is only one Jeff Martin, and he doesn’t leave room for any doubt; he is easily one of the best guitarists in the world!
KILLER TRACKS BY JEFF MARTIN
NUMBER 2-Adam Jones (TOOL)
There are few musicians that dig into the creative process as deeply as Adam Jones of TOOL does.
This musician has found a way to create a signature sound and style with his guitar, so completely, that he has shifted the entire music industry on his own. Weaving together mathematical equations, esoteric theories, and pure sound evolution, Adam Jones is a creative dark force, that forever seems just out of reach to the listener; an unsolvable puzzle that demands your patience. Not one to steal the spotlight from his fellow musicians, Adam creates powerful soundscapes that elevate his bandmates to their highest potential, and the end-product, is a band so connected to their process, that it can take over a decade an album! With each album showcasing the secret musical journey Adam has taken, respectively and impressively, out of the spotlight.
There are pages written on the many unique tricks that Adam uses to gain his signature, dark and ethereal sound. Going so far as to use am Epilady Trio, in place of the better-known E-Bow, Adam is not afraid to try anything to create something he has never heard before, which means he ends up creating something we have never heard before; and If that sounds easy to you, try to attempt it yourself, because it is no easy feat, to stand out in the crowd on the very first second of sound heard, and when you hear a riff from Adam Jones, there is no denying it is from Adam Jones.
Musicians today often attempt to shred faster, louder, and with more technical bravado; hoping to forever prove that they rock harder than the next. When it comes to Adam Jones, he gives off the impression that he is playing for his own self alone, for his own personal reasons, to deepen his own journey, by elevating above celebrity itself, by ignoring it completely; it is as if he operates on a completely-separate wavelength than the entire music industry itself; and for that reason alone he has successfully brought together the rare bandmates that he has, to produce the sort of sound that others have tried to duplicate, but simply cannot even touch on any level.
For one to even start the journey towards understanding the depth of this musician, one must also spend time looking at his visual offerings to the industry, from paintings to music videos to Hollywood special FX, Adam Jones has become the sound most associated with the eternal works of the great Alex Grey, and that in-itself is an honor of great proportions.
KILLER TRACKS BY ADAM JONES
NUMBER 3- John Butler (John Butler Trio)
Australia has produced, and offered up, so much good music that it deserves the respect and appreciation of the entire music industry, all day long, forever. There is something beautifully connected to all of humanity found in their artists, and no one embodies this as much as John Butler himself.
This mesmerizing guitarist is so connected, so real, and so inspirational, that he doesn’t even need to use his voice to sing. If you have ever heard him play the song “Ocean”, you will know exactly what I mean by that.
There is a confidence in his music, a powerful awareness of his place in this world, that permeates each, and every song, that he creates; and it is both an emotional and spiritual force for many (including myself). No matter how many times I see this band play, I am in awe of their ability to fill a room with the proof of something higher, something wonderfully awesome about us humans.
I would be doing Mr. Butler a great disservice if I did not mention that he is an outspoken activist and humanitarian, and that he uses his music as a tool of greater purpose than that of celebrity status.
He has brought awareness to the people, in-regards to the destruction of his homelands old-growth forests, the nuclear testing sites, the oppression of the aboriginal peoples, and much more!
The fact is, not only does John Butler take his guitar playing seriously, but he takes the health of the world around him seriously as well; and that makes him a legend in my book.
John Butler never fails to capture the hearts of the audience with his unbelievable guitar skills, or his masterful songwriting ability. He pushes himself further on every album, and he connects with the world even more every single time, his slide/blues skills are so on point, that his place will forever be among the greatest of all time in my books.
KILLER TRACKS BY JOHN BUTLER
NUMBER 4-Claudio Sanchez (Coheed And Cambria, The Prize Fighter Inferno)
I feel like I could just type the name Claudio Sanchez, and that would be enough to make my point.
This musician is a guitar-God, and I stand behind that statement with my whole being.
Claudio Sanchez is the pinnacle of talent and focus, he is possibly one of the most in-demand musicians around. Concerts that sell out in moments, hordes of fans that tattoo their bodies with all things Coheed And Cambria related; this is a musician that travels his own path, with his own signature guitar skills and sound, and no one quite does it the way Claudio does. Can I get an “Amen!”
I made it a point not to mention the ability to shred in this list, because too many best-guitarist lists place that in bold; however, CLAUDIO CAN SHRED WITH THE BEST!!!!!!
I have seen some witchcraft in my lifetime, and it exists in a solo played on a double-neck guitar, behind the back of Claudio! It is absolutely-jaw-dropping talent.
The complexity of the songs that Claudio creates is made even more impressive when you consider that he sings while playing these intricate riffs, seriously, you have-to have some sort of pact with the Devil in- order to gain such musical abilities, he better keep-on creating as much as he can, until the ole Devil comes a calling.
Claudio himself has mentioned the importance of creating riffs that excite him and get him pumped about delving deeper into the songs, and that is exactly what he does; over, and over again, he produces the sort of riffs that force you to turn the volume way past ten, and then hit repeat, repeat, repeat!
KILLER TRACKS BY CLAUDIO SANCHEZ
NUMBER 5-Misha Mansoor (Periphery)
At first glance, this might seem unfair, as Periphery has a major line-up of guitar talent, but Misha Mansoor is the one we are spotlighting today.
I just realized now that this article started out not highlighting the shredders, but here we are with one of the most insanely talented guitarists I have ever had the pleasure of listening to; well, it is what it is I suppose.
Misha is a technical genius, and it gets no tighter than this; I mean it.
It never fails to dumbfound me when I watch him play, and if ever I thought I had any real guitar talent, Misha makes sure that I understand that I am still swimming in the shallow end of the rock/metal pool. You do not get this sort of skill by not living and breathing your music, and Misha Mansoor deserves to be known as one of metal’s untouchables. His skill level is unparalleled, his attention to detail is staggering, and he is humble enough to reach out to his fans and help them learn to play his music through helpful vlogs; or rather, help them to try and learn it.
It would be an insult to act as if Misha Mansoor shredded blindly to impress, because there is a real depth here, and it deserves to be acknowledged. Yes, at times the guitaring is a flurry of metal goodness, but then Misha opens the track up to an almost classical bridge, and the song becomes nothing short of an epic and beautiful moment in music history.
There is a level of skill here that not everyone will take the time to appreciate, but I promise you, if you focus on what Misha Mansoor offers on every powerful Periphery track, you will realize the well of creative inspiration found in his abilities. Harnessing the sort of energy found within each track cannot be easy, and the most impressive thing I can say about Misha’s skill level, is just how easy he makes it look.
KILLER TRACKS BY MISHA MANSOOR
NUMBER 6-Dallas Green (City And Colour, Alexisonfire, You + Me)
An industry paradox, a polarization of artistic vision, and a musician that shows no weakness in his songwriting abilities, Dallas Green of City and Colour, Alexisonfire, and You + Me, is the quintessential musician; he lives through the entire spectrum of his emotions, fearlessly.
At this point in his career, one can only guess what he has in store for the future of his own music; he is, in many ways, a shapeshifter of sound.
While playing with Alexisonfire, Dallas channeled his anger and disappointment for a failing society and political system, in such a way, that it feels as though that band has a second singer screaming their powerful message. As if Dallas himself, is addicted to polar-opposites, he directly divides a reunites the unique sound that makes up Alexisonfire. While George Petit screamed bloody-murder on the mic, Dallas took the edge off in a beautiful way with his incredible harmonic abilities; all the while commanding his guitar like a man possessed.
With City And Colour, Dallas opened his fans up to a completely different side of himself, and it paid off, big time, for the quiet and humble musician from Ontario, Canada. Leaning heavily on his solo abilities, Dallas put out one of the most heartfelt, and heart-breaking albums in recent memory (and is still doing so today). It was when he released his beautiful album titled “Sometimes” in 2005, that listeners finally got to hear the far-ranging abilities of this diverse musician. We knew he could play guitar from watching him shred in Alexisonfire, but his voice was finally fully released from its background-vocal and heavy distortion shackles found in Alexisonfire.
Without any real promotion, just a straight love for writing the most honest music, in the most honest, that a musician can, Dallas secretly teamed up his close friend Alecia Moore (P!NK), and created another beautiful album of epic emotional proportions. At this point I must make it clear, that what makes Dallas one of the best guitarist/songwriters around today, is that he can bring out the very best in the musicians around him. He somehow channels his deep connection to himself, and reaches out with that sincerity, straight into the heart of the musicians he works with. It seems as if Dallas Green can give his fellow musicians permission to let it all out, and both the freedom and strength to create deeply emotional music, as if no one is watching at all.
He is, in my opinion, Canadian royalty, and he deserves every ounce of respect he receives from the entire industry for what he brings to the musical table.
KILLER TRACKS BY DALLAS GREEN
NUMBER 7- Dustin Kensrue (Thrice)
Dustin Kensrue of one-of-the-best-bands-I-have-ever-had-the-pleasure-of-listening-to Thrice, is in a word, fearless, and in another word, trusting. He is a rare musician that walked away from what a winning formula, to test out another one altogether, and then again, and again, and these changes were met with appreciation and success; his fans remained intact and faithful throughout this incredible musician’s personal journey of self-discovery; even after a major hiatus; Thrice has returned to their fans with nothing but open arms…but this isn’t really about Thrice, this is about how Dustin Kensrue channels his guitar abilities, and how his songwriting is unlike anyone else.
When Dustin plays, no matter the song, no matter the album, and no matter the venue, there is always a sense of emotional mystery weaved within his music. He comes off as the most approachable musician, his songs make no attempt at hiding the deep emotions used to create them, and yet, Dustin Kensrue always gives off the impression that there is a much deeper level to all of this, and that for as open as he is, he is still a complete mystery.
Some musician’s play the guitar with only the technical skill that they have learned from many hours of practice, while musicians as trusting in the process as Dustin Kensrue obviously is, create songs from an, almost, purely emotional space. I can’t say that I have heard a guitar sound quite like Dustin Kensrue’s, or heard songs that had this sort of unique feel to them either.
Dustin Kensrue has pulled off some of the best guitar riffs I have ever heard, he has created songs that have inspired me through to my very core, and he has shown clearly that you do not have to stay in one safe place artistically; that you can keep moving forward, keep pushing the envelope, and keep digging in deeper, Dustin Kensrue has left no room for debate, he is one of the greatest musicians around.
KILLER TRACKS BY DUSTIN KENSRUE
TOP 3 GUITARISTS/SONGWRITERS YOU SHOULD KNOW (OR WILL) OF TODAY
NUMBER 1-Sacha Laskow (Every Hour Kills)
Sacha Laskow from Every Hour Kills (Perfect Filth Studios), completely devours everything tech related, and it shows through his military-grade tactical style of playing. He scales the neck of his eight-string guitars with such determination and ferocity, that I half expect the guitar to start smoking from the friction itself; it is the sort of speed and tempo changes that only a truly focused and gifted musician can achieve.
I always get the sense while watching him play, that he goes somewhere else to bring forth this sort of inspired sound. You have-to trust yourself completely as an artist to dig in this much, and there is no denying that Sacha accepts his gift fully. Every track he unleashes on the world is a cinematic juggernaut of sound! It is made even more impressive by the fact that Sacha is also a composer/mixer/producer, and these insane tracks are the finished product of one man’s vision alone.
At this point, Sacha has made a real statement about his abilities as both a musician and a sound engineer, and that statement is straight out plain as day; Sacha has an awe-inspiring amount of talent, both with his insane guitar abilities, and the tightness of every track he produces.
KILLER TRACKS BY SACHA LASKOW
NUMBER 2-Naturre Ganganbaigaali (Tengger Cavalry)
Unique is only one word used to describe this musician’s ability to command the guitar the way that he does, other words included might be, aggressive, incredible, powerful, demanding, and more.
Naturre Ganganbaigaali of Tengger Cavalry is still a mystery to me after all these years of being a listener. On one hand, he is the charismatic front man of the powerful nomadic-Mongolian-Metal act known as Tengger Cavalry, and on the other hand, he is a straight-out music composer who creates beautiful cinematic soundscapes that deserve to be in both movies and videogames. It is an impressive polarization of artistic character that showcases how much this inspired musician lives for music.
Internationally known for his skill with the traditional Mongolian bowed-stringed instrument known as the horsehead fiddle, Naturre Ganganbaigaali respectfully embraces the deep roots of his own culture, while also embracing what inspires him about other cultures as well; and what we receive in return for his efforts, is a spiritual transformation of sound that is difficult to fit inside one specific genre-box.
The current global awareness of this artist is on a feverish level right now, and with Tengger Cavalry set to release their newest album soon, the passionate legion of followers that live for this bands unique sound, are sharpening their proverbial blades in preparation for the hunt.
Naturre Ganganbaigaali brings something special to the guitar world, something new, and something undeniable. With a strength found in the respect for his own culture, along with the appreciation for others, there is a powerful bridge created through the process, and every time Nature plays for an audience, there is no denying his ability to capture their attention with both his Mongolian throat-singing ability, and his vast ranging guitar skills.
KILLER TRACKS BY NATURRE GANGANBAIGAALI
NUMBER 3-Andy Evans
The songwriting world needs to pay close attention to Andy Evans, he is the definition of a musician set to explode onto the scene! Releasing his well-received and inspired new album titled “Miracle”, Andy Evans showcases his emotionally driven guitar skills, along with his beautiful vocals, and simply put, offers us one great song after another.
Trying to pick the best song off his album is a difficult task, as every song was clearly put together with the hand-crafted love that can be found in only a sincere and real musician. Smooth, emotional, funky, inspired, beautiful; these are just some of the words that come to mind when you listen to the great music that Andy Evans creates.
It takes an artist with a proper respect for the music that came before to create songs of this quality. Nothing about Andy Evans feels like he is trying to be something it is not, and it is inspirational to see any artist trust in their abilities the way that Andy does.
Although Andy Evans is still on the rise, he plays as if he has been doing this his whole life in front of a large audience. The professionalism that he brings to the table could teach a lot of indie musicians about how to present their music to people. One thing is for sure, when you combine a guitar talent like this, with a voice as incredible as Andy’s, there is no doubt that you have something special to offer.
KILLER TRACKS BY ANDY EVANS
NUMBER 4-Peter Koronios (The Black Atlas)
Anyone who knows me knows how much I enjoy this music, as I have been mentioning The Black Atlas to as many potential fans as possible for a while now; and I say potential, because an artist this dark, this experimental, and this unique, is not for everyone. Much like the sort of crowd that TOOL pulls in, The Black Atlas demands your attention when being listened to, and there is no hand-holding through the journey either. Peter Koronios has a signature style when it comes to playing his guitar, and I can’t say that I can really compare it to anyone. Not one to hold back from experimentation, Peter Koronios has been creating songs that are, at times, emotionally challenging. Yet, in all this darkness is a real beauty to be found, a sense of hope in the cathartic nature of the song writing process itself.
If you look at the impressive body of work that Peter Koronios has put out already, it is clear that what he is creating cannot remain hidden among the masses for long. Peter Koronios demands authenticity in his music, and nothing is allowed to compromise the vision he has for his own art (yes, I have talked to him about this very thing). I respect that, real artists respect that, and because it is so easy to chase the money and the fame, and forget that their must be a compelling personal reason for the creation of all art, no matter the medium. Peter adds so much to his unique method of song crafting, by harnessing the brooding and melodic power found in his voice. It is both haunting and beautiful to hear, and it effects the listener on an emotionally deep level.
Peter Koronios of The Black Atlas makes this list for more than just his unique abilities with a guitar, or his unique approach to songwriting; he makes this list because he is one of the most sincere and dedicated musicians I have met. Any new musician wanting to know what great art looks and sounds like, will spend some time listening to The Black Atlas, and also ruminating on the great art that Peter Koronios associates with his music.
KILLER TRACKS BY PETER KORONIOS
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