5 Amazing (And Seriously Underrated!) Modern Blues Guitarists
Over the past 6 months I’ve been on a mission to listen to as much new blues music as possible. The contemporary blues scene is thriving, and there are some amazing modern blues guitarists keeping the blues alive. Musicians like Joe Bonamassa, Gary Clark Jr and Derek Trucks, are packing out concert halls and stadiums. But there are a whole host of talented musicians who for whatever reason, haven’t received the same acclaim. Here are some of the best modern blues guitarists I’ve recently discovered, that you need to listen to:
I first heard Henrik Freischlader a few months ago, thanks to the ‘Funky, Heavy, Bluesy‘ playlist on have Spotify. His song ‘Point of View’ popped up and I was immediately captivated by the quality of his playing.
Heavily influenced by Gary Moore, Freischlader combines a fast and furious playing style with a beautiful sounding Strat tone. This is a powerful combination, made more so through the way that that Freischlader blends elements of American blues, rock, jazz and funk into his playing
Totally self taught, Freischlader is a highly technical player and one that possesses amazing touch and feel. Just listen to his versions of ‘The Prophet‘ and ‘The Messiah Will Come Again‘ on his tribute album Blues For Gary. Like Moore, Freischlader balances speed with total precision and clarity in his playing. It is a difficult balance to strike, and one that very few players achieve.
In addition to his brilliant guitar playing, Freischlader can also play the drums, Hammond organ and the bass guitar. He played all of these on his album Recorded By Martin Meinschäfer, along with writing the songs and recording and producing the album!
If you like heavy, riff based blues and fast paced solos, then you need to listen to Freischlader. He is without doubt one of the most talented modern blues guitarists out there.
For more information on Freischlader, as well as upcoming tour dates, check out his website here.
I found out about Adriano Viterbini from an Italian friend and blues enthusiast. He had seen Viterbini performing the year before and told me it was one of the best gigs he’d ever seen.
Upon first listening, I was struck by the similarities between Viterbini and Ry Cooder. Cooder is one of my favourite slide guitarists and Viterbini possesses many of the same qualities that make Cooder such a great guitarist. His melodies are beautifully composed, he is brilliant at spacing and his playing is totally controlled.
Like Ry Cooder, Viterbini plays slide guitar and opts predominantly to play acoustically. In addition, his compositions are all instrumental and like Cooder, he combines blues guitar with elements of African music. This is particularly evident on songs like ‘Tubi Innocenti‘ and ‘Tunga Mangi‘ from his most recent solo album.
Over the years, Viterbini has collaborated with a wide variety of different musicians, and been involved in numerous different projects. The most significant of these is The Bud Spencer Blues Explosion, and more recently I Hate My Village. Both of these bands have a sound not dissimilar to The Black Keys, so if you are looking for heavy riffs and fuzz laden guitars, then definitely check them out.
But if you want to listen to something totally different, I would recommend listening to Viterbini’s solo work. His albums Goldfoil and Film|O|Sound are both brilliant and showcase his beautiful and melodic style of playing.
Chris Buck has become one of my favourite modern blues guitarists, and I’ve only heard 2 of his songs. In fact, at the time of writing, Buck’s band – ‘Buck & Evans’ – have only released 2 songs.
Despite this limited discography, Buck is quickly making his name as one of the most exciting modern blues guitarists. Slash described Buck as a ‘f*cking awesome guitar player’ and he was named ‘ The Best New Guitarist In The World’ by Total Guitar Magazine in 2017.
It is not difficult to see why. Just listen to the songs ‘Slow Train‘ and ‘Going Home‘. The lead guitar playing from Buck is exceptional. He has amazing touch, plays with passion and feeling, and and has a great Strat tone. The solos on both songs are brilliant. Both of them are beautifully constructed and perhaps most importantly, in both cases the solos serve the song.
In addition, it isn’t just the quality of Buck’s lead guitar playing that is worthy of note. Buck has a unique and interesting rhythm style. Taking inspiration from Jimi Hendrix, Bucks adds fills and embellishments to his chord progressions to make them more interesting.
Fortunately, Buck and Evans will release their debut album Write A Better Day, later this year. In the meantime, I would recommend checking out Buck & Evans’ Youtube Channel. Run by Buck, it features videos on gear, how to improve your playing and the guitar industry more generally.
For more information about Chris Buck, his band and their upcoming tour dates, check out their official site and Facebook. You can also find out more about Chris Buck directly on his personal website, Facebook and Instagram.
The British blues scene has produced some of the best blues guitarists of all time. Musicians like Eric Clapton and Peter Green altered the landscape of the blues with their passionate and intense playing.
Continuing their legacy – whilst adding his own unique twist – is British musician Aynsley Lister, who is quickly becoming one of my favourite modern blues guitarists.
I discovered Lister accidentally when I was searching for a new amp. I was looking at a boutique British company called Rift Amps, that Lister uses. Having heard the the beautiful tone of the amps, I decided to search for Lister on Spotify. I instantly connected with his playing.
Lister grew up listening to Fleetwood Mac and The Bluesbreakers, and was heavily influenced by British guitarists like Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Paul Kossoff. These influences are evident in his playing, which focuses on a tasteful, ‘less is more’ approach. He combines this with more complex melodies and chord progressions, which at times stray far away from the typical 12 bar blues. The result is a modern songwriting style interwoven with melodic and tasteful blues guitar playing.
Over the last 20 years, Lister has recorded 13 albums. So there is a whole wealth of material you can listen to. Of these, my favourites are Eyes Wide Open, Tower Sessions (Live) and Home. They feature some exceptional guitar work, as well as some notable covers of songs by artists like Prince, James Morrison and Nina Simone.
I think Instagram is brilliant for musicians. Not only does it give you a platform to showcase your own talents (should you wish), but it allows you to easily discover amazing and little known musicians. This was how I found Charley Hicks a number of years ago.
I quickly became inspired by Hicks’ story. Hicks seemed like a normal guy trying to turn his dream of playing the blues into his profession. He was hustling and creating blues music on the side of various jobs, and he documented his journey on Instagram.
Hicks seemed like a super nice guy and was even gracious enough to respond to a direct message I sent asking for his advice on slides. (As a side point, he recommended Silica Sound Glass Slides, which are brilliant and which I have been using ever since).
It is however Hicks’ music that really resonated with me. Inspired by Charley Patton and the early Delta bluesmen, Hicks’ plays a style of blues that very few modern musicians adopt. He uses a resonator guitar, plays with a slide, and performs by himself – stomping his foot to provide an accompanying rhythm. He even recorded his songs in the style of the early bluesmen, performing them live and doing them in one take. In doing so, he recreated the spirit of the earliest blues recordings, which were done in the same style and captured in barns, community halls and on plantations.
Sadly, I don’t think the dream of becoming a full time musicians worked out for Hicks. A couple of years ago he closed his social media accounts and announced that he was no longer pursuing a career in music. I haven’t been able to find him online since then, but thankfully you can still find his music on Spotify. If you like old school Delta Blues, and are looking for something a little different – then definitely check him out.
Well there we have it – just some of the lesser known modern blues guitarists that have featured heavily on my blues playlist in the last month or so. Have a listen and if you think I’ve missed anyone off the list, let me know in the comments below!