In the two years we’ve been doing The Out Door, we’ve talked to, and about, a lot of solo guitar players. The ’90s resurgence of one of the most influential solo players ever, John Fahey, is still having a ripple effect— in fact, you could argue the effect is as great as it’s ever been, with more players (especially young ones) influenced by his mix of old blues, country, and classical. But, as we discussed in our June column, a lot of them are finding ways to move beyond simple Fahey echoes.
As we’ve listened to more and more of this new generation, and as we’ve read and contributed to year-end lists the past few weeks, we realized there are so many good solo guitar records lately that we could compile a very solid top 10 (sorry, make that 11!) just from this year. So we did, and here it is! (Click on names to hear samples from each, many courtesy of the excellent Experimedia).
EDIT: We were inexcusably remiss in forgetting Noveller’s Glacial Glow, one of the best 2011 LPs of any kind, solo guitar or otherwise. Consider it the floating, unnumbered entry in this list of 11 great solo guitar records— it’s as good as any of the others.
10. The Dove Azima - The Dove Azima (Oak Hill) Lonely Jandek-like ramblings from the mysterious Zachary Hay.
9. Dean McPhee - Son of the Black Peace (Blast First Petite) Aching electric guitar strains echoing Loren Connors at his most melodic.
8. Hallock Hill - The Union (Hundred Acre) Rural upstate New York musings that are as weighty as they are gentle.
7. Evan Caminiti - When California Falls Into the Sea (Handmade Birds) Dark, dense clouds of electric guitar meditation.
6. Sir Richard Bishop - Graviton Polarity Generator (Self-Released) An unpredictable set of eerie drones and chilling electric reverberations from the unclassifiable SRB.
5. Black Eagle Child - Lobelia (Preservation) This elegy to family life sometimes sounds like a full band record, but it’s primarily from the mind of the brilliant Michael Jantz.
4. Cian Nugent - Doubles (VHF) Two sidelong journeys into acoustic revery.
3. Chuck Johnson - A Struggle, Not a Thought (Strange Attractors) Remarkably thoughtful acoustic essays, perhaps his best yet.
2. Bill Orcutt - How the Thing Sings (eMego) The ex-Harry Pussy guitarist takes another leap forward in his singular reinvention of how to attack a guitar.
1. Glenn Jones - The Wanting (Thrill Jockey) The best solo acoustic guitar record of 2011 is filled with gripping stories, majestic melodies, and masterful playing.