Presented with Comment: Who is Today's Best Guitarist? Pt. 2
It is time for our Sunday piece, Presented with Comment, where each week Michael and Nicholas La Torre take a turn engaging in a debate over alt topics of interest and gauging the audience's views on the issues at hand. To do this, the authors will present examples to support their opinions and not only get the audience's view on the two sides presented, but seek feedback from the audience on alternatives as well.
This topic is actually quite a bit tougher than what it seems due to most alt bands not focusing on the elements of guitar that we usually use to compare them. While soloing is still very prevalent in the alt scene, I would say these solos are used to enhance the music rather than being gratuitous in nature. With that being said, one of the guitarists with whom I have been the most impressed during the last decade is Derek Trucks. A child prodigy who played his first professional gig at the age of 11, has been an official member of The Allman Brothers band since 1999, and is the founder of his Grammy-winning band, The Derek Trucks Band.
(13-year-old Derek Trucks plays the outro to Layla while opening for The Allman Brothers Band)
Curious as to what others in the business think of him? Consider that Trucks had played with Bob Dylan, Joe Walsh, and Stephen Stills before he was 20 years old, and also collaborated with Eric Clapton as a member of his band during the Crossroads Festival in 2007. He has also been named in three Rolling Stone articles as a member of the "Top 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" and one of the "New Guitar Gods."
Trucks plays a hybrid guitar style, utilizing elements of blues and slide, in a way that not many guitarists have done before him. Using a bottle slide, Trucks draws influence from, Duane Allman, B.B. King, and Elmore James, to put together some of the most soulful music, with tone that every guitarists wishes they could achieve. Slide guitar is still a bit of a niche style amongst guitarists, but I don't think many would disagree when I say that DerekTrucks is one of, if not the best, doing it today.
For serious blues fans, I would suggest checking out "Down in the Flood" by The Derek Trucks Band. The track kicks
off with bluesy acoustic guitar with a heavy sound due to the Open E tuning. Like many other tracks from Trucks, this song is incredibly guitar driven, reminiscent of older Clapton tracks, such as "Layla." This track is more traditional blues style than the typical slide licks we are accustomed to with Trucks, but there are slide parts near the end of the song to help round out the sound.
Another killer track from Trucks comes by way of a collaboration with his wife, Susan Tedeschi. The Tedeschi Trucks Band won the 2012 Grammy for Best Blues Album for their debut album, Relevator. Among those tracks is "Midnight in Harlem." The bluesy sound of the band fits perfectly with the guitar style of Trucks. While guitars are always super prevalent in Trucks tracks, this song shows that Trucks can still add to the track without taking over. The track continues to progress into an exciting jam session where Trucks shows why he is the best in the business. His versatility and originality are what bring him a cult following, which more than most active musicians, I believe he truly deserves.
(Susan Tedeschi and Trucks perform "Midnight in Harlem" in 2012)