Friday, March 14, 2008

No, I mean REALLY unsung

There's a set of guitar heroes that the public knows. Ask any music fan to name his favorite guitarist and you'll likely get one of a certain set of names. Eric Clapton. Brian May. Jimmy Page. Jimi Hendrix. Slash. Stevie Ray Vaughn. Eddie Van Halen. Angus Young. Tom Morello. Jack White. Probably a dozen others.

Name a guitarist to name his favorite guitarist, it'll be different. Clearly, the above names clearly belong in the pool, but you're as to see James Burton, Allan Holdsworth, Jeff Beck, Michael Hedges, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Eric Johnson, Ritchie Blackmore, Yngwie Malmsteen, Buddy Guy or Danny Gatton. I think that Danny was once called the most overrated underrated guitarist, meaning that nobody but guitarists had heard of him, but all the guitar players and the guitar press thought he was brilliant. (It is the opinion of this blog that he was brilliant. It is also the opinion of this blog that his brilliance is a fact, not just an opinion of this blog.)

I'm looking for the really unsung heroes, the guitarists who nobody knows and more people should

Today, I am listening to Michael Lee Firkins.

Who?, you say.

Michael Lee Firkins has had four albums on Shrapnel Records, the shred guitar label. So, he's a shredder. Clearly. All about the sweep picking and whammy bar. Well, yeah, but not entirely like that.

Michael Lee Firkins does not play slide guitar on any cuts , the liners say. They have to, because on things like "Hula Hoops" and "Deja Blues", it sounds like he's doing slide and even Hawaiian lap steel. Most shredders bang on their Floyd Roses, down until the strings go slack and up a major third, Vai-style. Firkins holds the whammy between his pinky and ring finger, using it gently to get slide effects.

I am also listening to Mattias IA Eklundh.

Who?, you say.

Mattias IA Eklundh is the kind of guitarist who can play Kiss like it's Django and Django like it's Zappa. He's the kind of guitarist who can imitate his inkjet printer with his guitar. He's the kind of guitarist who plays "Smoke On The Water" doubletime and a sixth up so his dog will enjoy it, too. He's a Freak, so much that his album is called Freak Guitar, and Vai liked it so much that he put it out on Favored Nations.

So, who is your really unsung guitar hero?


Patrick said...

Michael Kelsey, who continues to take Michael Hedges' work out of the theoretical realm into the practical. Also, John McLaughlin, jazz-rock fusion pioneer.

Dave Jacoby said...

Well, I know both of them, one personally (I've met him and shaken hands, at least), but I'm that kind of obsessive. But McLaughlin and Al DiMeola are clearly on that second, guitarists-only list.

Patrick said...

How do you feel about Adam Fulara?

Dave Jacoby said...

Who? I say.

Dave Jacoby said...

Ahh yes. Mapple Leaf Rag.

I mock his spelling because I cannot approach his playing. Which is like Stanley Jordan x 2.

Joe said...

>Michael Lee Firkins does not play slide guitar on any cuts

Are you effing kidding me? I've been listening to him for years, always assumed it was a slide, but you're telling me it's all whammy? No disrespect, but I flat out don't believe you at this point. I must do some research and find out for myself. This is really screwing with my head right now.

I would put Eklundh in the guitarists only list. Favored Nations releases seem pretty high profile among our crowd.

I nominate Nels Cline (although he did have a GP cover a few years ago) and Marc Ribot.

Joe said...

Looked up some videos. Wow.

Gotta add Guthrie Govan.

Dave Jacoby said...

I swear and affirm that this is what the liners said. I cannot swear that what they say is true. But I've seen enough of him on YouTube to believe it. I think I need to get his Hot Licks DVD. But seriously, shouldn't he have been as big as Satriani? Or at least Steve Stevens?

Marc Ribot? Sure. I love Rootless Cosmopolitans. I love his take on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". It's all so intentionally blocky and awkward in such a beautiful way.

I'm sorry to say that I'm not familiar with Nels Cline enough. I've heard a bit, but I'm getting less and less hooked on Wilco the less they twang (my fave Wilco is still A.M.), and I've not even heard any Nels Cline Singers.

Will look up Govan as soon as I hit "publish".

Bibi said...

I used to have a video CD tutorial with Michael Lee Firkin and I really liked him, and I do like very much Mattias IA Eklundh.

N.J. said...

buckethead, definitely.

Dave Jacoby said...

Gotta disagree about Buckethead. He never broke big, in part because the Axl echo-chamber will never release Chinese Democracy, which is said to contain at least some of his work. He's not big like Eddie VH, but he is well-sung.