Top 10 Country / Roots Guitarists

Chet-AtkinsI don’t do a lot of “top whatever” lists but as an advanced mediocre guitar player I’ve always been fascinated by the instrument. So here goes! I asked my much more intelligent than myself twitter followers who they thought was the best country / roots guitarists of all time was and i got a lot of excellent responses. Though I used those responses as a source all blame of leaving Buddy Miller off is mine and mine alone.

These 10 masters that squeeze magic from lumber and have changed the genre and influenced scores of followers. Country and roots guitarists don’t hide behind fancy technology. Their stock-and-trade is built on clean tone and fiery or soulful picking.

Don’t see your favorite? Drop them in the comments below.

10. Willie Nelson – An under-appreciated player. Willie’s been playing this ode to his hero, Django Reinhardt, on his one-of-a-king acoustic – Trigger – for years.

9. Junior Brown – Junior is an absolute beast on his signature double-neck 6-string meets lap steel guitar guitar. He’s dubbed it his “guit-steel”.

8. Dave Rawlings – You may go to see Gillian Welch but you’ll walk away knowing that it’s Rawlings that brings musical depth to the duo.

7. Jerry Reed – most people knwo him as Cledus Snow from the Smokey and the Bandit films but Reed was a top-notch songwriter and guitar slinger.

5. Brent Mason and 6. Vince Gill – Soem might say the whole point of this post was to show these masters at work. Who am I to argue?

4. Hank Garland – Garland wrote “Sugarfoot Rag” when he was 19. It went on to sell over a million copies. He went on to be a sought after Nashville session guitarist working with Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline, Brenda Lee, Mel Tillis, Marty Robbins, the Everly Brothers, Boots Randolph, Roy Orbison and Conway Twitty.

3, Kenny Vaughan – You can’t be a sloucher to play with Marty Stuart. Vaughn has lent his talent to Staurt, Lucinda Williams, Rodney Crowell and others. He’s also used his fiery tele to carve a=out a right respectable solo career.

2. James Burton – James “Master of the Telecaster” Burton is in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. the latter of which his induction speech was given by longtime fan Keith Richards. bUTON’S session work has appeared on the works of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Glen Campbell, John Denver, Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, Jerry Lee Lewis, Claude King, Elvis Costello, Joni Mitchell, Vince Gill, Suzi Quatro and more.

1. Chet Atkins – In his lifetime Atkins set a new bar for guitar players. His clear-time picking could shift from roadhouse to supper club in a the same piece. Influenced by Merle Travis, Django Reinhardt, George Barnes, Les Paul, and Maybelle Carter. He has nine Country Music Association Instrumentalist of the Year awards, and was inducted into both the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame.

25 Replies to “Top 10 Country / Roots Guitarists”

  1. I’m hearing lots of requests for Buddy.Though my sanity may be in question, i think he’s a tad subdued for this list. Willie just barely made it.

  2. If you really mean “roots” there are a great many blues artists who should be considered. This is a good list of roots artists that lean toward country. I would definitely add Chris Whitley and Kelly Joe Phelps, though neither was/is “country.”

  3. These lists are always difficult and you will never get everyone to agree. I like the list but I agree with Richard Yost, although I think he meant Danny Gatton. If you ever listen to Brad Paisley (who also deserves to be on the list) he did a song called Clusterpluck, which won an emmy. Clusterpluck has a who’s who of great guitarists on it. There is one section where Brad pays tribute to the guys by playing their licks.

  4. One more thing on Buddy Miller is that he has won more Americana instrumentalist awards than anyone else (4 times) since 2004. Dave Rawlings won this year.

  5. I am relatively certain that if you were to go visit 78 year old Glen Campbell in his care facility, he could still outplay half of these guys. Seriously, he was probably at least on par with Jerry Reed.

  6. Re: Miller, Lee, Burton – Add Frank Rekard. Anyone who has been Emmylou’s lead guitar merits consideration.

  7. All great choices, and how many more there are. I love Jim Campilongo’s country noir thing, for one.

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