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Top Ten Thursdays: The Top Ten Guitarists Right Now

Buddy Guy plays the Arsht Center.
Buddy Guy plays the Arsht Center.
​Blues badass Buddy Guy -- along with Big Easy piano man Dr. John -- performs Friday at the Knight Concert Hall at the Arsht Center. A huge influence on Eric Clapton and countless others, Guy continues to elate audience members with his guitar heroics at the grand age of 72. On stage, he looks and performs like a man at least two decades younger. But where does Guy rank with the other guitar stars making the rounds these days? These are the 10 greatest guitarists right now -- or, y'know, my highly objective list of the players currently exciting me.
 
1. Sonny Landreth

This Louisiana slide guitar master has a singular, fingering-on-the-fret-board style that allows him to coerce myriad sweet, complex sounds from his instrument -- without having to rely on a enough pedals to cover the average-sized stage (yes, that's a dig at The Edge). Here's a live performance of the deep-space blues instrumental "The Milky Way Home," which can be found on Landreth's excellent 2008 album From the Reach.

2. Derek Trucks

His uncle Butch Trucks is the drummer and founding member of the Allman Brothers Band. Derek grew up mastering the slide sounds of original ABB leader Duane Allman before joining the pioneering, precision jam band about a decade ago. But Derek does so much more than ape a hero, bringing a rich, round tone of his own to everything he does, whether playing with ABB, in Eric Clapton's band, in his own namesake act, or with his wife, Susan Tedeschi.

Here's the Derek Trucks Band joined by Tedeschi for a cover of the Derek and the Dominos classic "Anyday." Trucks nails two amazing, perfectly phrased solos. First comes at 2:47, second at 4:40.

 

3. Bill Frisell

The greatest jazz guitarist since Django Reinhardt, Frisell emotes on his six-string like a world-class sax player. Frisell excels at every style of guitar and has brilliantly interpreted songs by artists ranging from Hank Williams Sr. to Bob Dylan to Madonna.

Here's his version of "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry."


And his rendition of Dylan's "Just Like a Woman" at the famed Continental Club in Austin, Tex., same venue where guitar god Stevie Ray Vaughan first gained fame.


...And Madonna's "Live to Tell."


4. Buddy Guy

Sure, B.B. King is infinitely more famousm but no one does a better job of keeping old school, Deep South-to-Chicago blues alive than Guy, who remains amazingly vibrant in his 70s. The man simply isn't aging. A deal with the devil? Who knows? 

Here's a live, wonderfully randy rendition of the Muddy Waters classic "I Just Wanna Make Love to You" from earlier this year.

 
5. Jimmy Page

When Led Zeppelin reunited in December of 2007 the band delivered a fierce, focused performance that teemed with an unexpected urgency. (Yes, I procured a pretty good bootleg.) Page also sounds -- and looks -- damn cool in the killer doc It Might Get Loud.

Here's Page playing sizzling slide on his astounding reworking of the blues chestnut "In My Time of Dying," from the '07 reunion gig at the 02 Arena in London.

 
6. Jeff Beck

Another former Yardbird, Beck hasn't lost a bit of brilliance since the '60s. Here he is at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction this yearm doing "Beck's Bolero" and then, joined by Page, performing "Immigrant Song" with Beck substituting Plant's banshee yell with mesmerizing guitar histrionics. A fiery "Peter Gunn Theme" closes the triumphant set.

 

7.  Robert Randolph

Sacred steel superstar Robert Randolph has brought a style of music mainly only known to House of God parishioners to the masses. His jubilant tone makes even a cynic like me a believer every time I hear him play. Here he is covering MJ's "Billie Jean" earlier this year in concert.

 
8. Jack White

The hardest working man in rock and roll sings, writes, drums, produces, forms a new band almost annually and plays a mean guitar. Here's the new millennium blues "Ball and Biscuit," live at VH1.

 
9. Angus Young

AC/DC returned with a vengeance on last year's Black Ice, the band's best album in nearly two decades. Young continues to come up with roaring riffs that -- unlike most metal and hard rock sonics -- make ya wanna shake yer ass! Here's the new album's crushing hit single, "Rock N Roll Train" from June concert at Wembley Stadium London.

 
10. Tom Morello

As skilled acoustic player and most innovative hard rocker, Morello continues to impress with his new act, the Street Sweeper Social Club, featuring the Coup's rapper Boots Riley. Here's a snippet of SSSC covering M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes" in Tampa in May. I covered the gig and recall how their brief opening set proved much more powerful than the bloated, nostalgia-trip performances by co-headliners Nine Inch Nails and Jane's Addiction.


And here's full performance of the song, in much better quality. Dig how Morello recreates the cash register ring!
 

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