Pick up any guitar magazine and odds are the cover story is on the same artist who was on it twenty years ago. While we're not discounting the influence of Hendrix or Page on the evolution of rock guitar there are plenty of axeman who don't get the attention that they deserve from the mainstream press. For that reason, we thought we'd list a few guitarists who we worship that you probably won't read about anywhere else. When you're done with this article, we promise you can go back to practicing your sweep picking in order to impress strangers at Guitar Center. Deal?
Andy Cohen (Silkworm, Bottomless Pit)
No, we're not talking about the dude from Bravo. This Andy Cohen was a member of the greatest bands not many people know about, Silkworm. (To learn, check out the amazing documentary Couldn't You Wait which came out earlier this year.) The surviving members of Silkworm now play in an equally incredible band called Bottomless Pit and both acts showcase Cohen's unique style of playing which is tastefully dissonant while remaining incredibly musical and is rooted in classic rock but takes an avant-garde route toward the future. But don't take our word for it, check out the solo for "Slow Hands" above at 2:10 to get your mind blown.
Kerry McCoy (Deafheaven)
Following Deafheaven's Kerry McCoy on Twitter can be a confusing experience. He plays in the world's preeminent shoegaze/black metal/whatever-you-want-to-call-it act, but talks like a rapper who gets a kickback every time he types "LOL." Mad suss. What isn't suspect is his unique approach to the guitar which sounds like Kevin Shields meets Immortal and manages to be bone-crushingly heavy without being overly complicated. McCoy's true talent lies in taking simple melodies and raising them to stratospheric heights through his use of effects, dynamics and unbridled enthusiasm. We know they're a polarizing act, that's why there's a comments section below.
Dave Knudson (Botch, Minus the Bear)
The fact that Dave Knudson still isn't a household name among the shredding elite is a mystery as much as it is an injustice. While Knudson got his start playing in the proto-metalcore act Botch, he truly pioneered his playing style in Minus The Bear, specifically his ability to two-handed tap out leads and melodies in a style that was groundbreaking and not-at-all cheesy like, say, Victor Wooten. More recently, he's figured out a way to link up multiple Line6 DL4 Delay pedals in order to seamlessly loop countless guitar parts live so accurately that you'd swear you were listening to one of their albums. We'd love to see Joe Satriani pull that off every night.
Doug Martsch (Built to Spill)
We'll be the first to admit that Built to Spill's Doug Martsch looks more like your dad's weird friend who sometimes sleeps in the park than some type of guitar god but remember that the most talented guitarists don't need to resort to ridiculous pseudonyms or peacocking jewelry to prove their prowess. Correspondingly for over two decades Doug Martsch has taken the influence of classic blues artists and reinterpreted them through a noodley, indie-rock prism. The difference between Martsch and the typical jam band guitarist is the fact that his playing has a purpose and his solos have a distinct beginning middle and end, even if it most of the time it seems relentlessly climatic.
J. Mascis (Dinosaur Jr.)
Even if he looks like your grandmother these days, J. Mascis is still a national treasure. Watch the video below if you dissagree. That's what we thought.
Nels Cline (Wilco)
How good is Nels Cline? He joined one of the most well known alt-country acts at a transitional point in their career and managed to seamlessly implement his demented brand of jazz-punk virtuosity into the mix and had them gain fans. Walking the line between the worlds of John Zorn-esque experimentation and mainstream pop melodicism is a treacherous one to walk but Cline is able to pull it off due to the simple fact that he's a monster on guitar. He's also a remarkably versatile player and whether he's coaxing feedback from his axe or doubling a vocal harmony, the song always comes first.
Mike Sullivan (Russian Circles)
Alongside guys like McCoy and Knudson (both of whom have toured with Russian Circles), RC guitarist Mike Sullivan is also redefining what being a guitar player in a heavy band means by figuring out a way to implement chugging hardcore riffs into an atmospheric arena and making both dynamics more powerful in the process. Sullivan can also two-handed tap and live loop like a champ, making him a triple threat onstage. To be honest we have no idea how he'll be able to pull off some of the sonic textures on the band's latest album Memorial—but we have no doubt he'll find a way to do it in stunning fashion.
Jonah Bayer is that guy you see hanging out at Guitar Center until they ask if he's gonna buy anything. Follow him on Twitter - @mynameisjonah