Playlists are the new mixtapes. There's nothing cooler than taking a slice out of your musical life and sharing that with another person. A curated playlist for a genre, activity, mood or even an occasion is an awesome endeavor.
Last year I picked a Guitar Album of the Week, but this year I went micro and picked one great guitar song each week for every week of the year.
When I started the project earlier this year, this is what I had to say:
I remember taking a lesson a while back, and asking my teacher “how can Guthrie Govan play SO many styles SO well?” Other than being extremely gifted, my teacher noted that Guthrie is a great active listener. He soaks up the vocabulary of different genres, and then applies it to his own playing.
The cool thing about this playlist is that it features "virtuosos" and many other shades of guitar player all in one ist. I think it's so important to be able to listen to a wide variety of music and take bits and pieces from each player to make up your own unique style.
Each week in my weekly newsletter, Six String Sunday, I've talked about why I picked that week's song. I talk about some of my favorite parts, tones, and even other songs and albums you should check out.
Here's a quick 2 or 3 sentence reason of why I love each song I put on this playlist. I started this playlist a week into January, so I've added 3 new songs to round out 52! Hope you enjoy the playlist.
Secret Sciences, Devin Townsend Project - Incredible production, awesome lyrics especially during the bridge, and oh my that first distorted guitar tone.
Cherub Rock, Smashing Pumpkins - After getting an Electro Harmonix Op-Amp Big Muff pi this year, I've had a lot of fun going back and listening to one of my favorite SP songs. The tone on the solo is out of this world.
Presley, Julian Lage - Julian is easily one of my favorite new jazz players. The song is a story wrapped up in a jazz song, and his ascending run at 1:03 is one of the coolest things I've heard all year.
Pandemonium, Nita Strauss - Before her first solo album came out, and before she was the first female Ibanez signature artist, I picked Pandemonium off She Rocks, Vol 1. An album which celebrates female guitarists. This has truly been Nita's year, and this is a great song that'd make any shredder proud.
Give It Everything You've Got, Joe Bonamassa & Beth Hart - It always surprises me how many albums Joe has put out throughout the years, and how many people he's collabed with. This song is a great bluesy rock tune with some great wah playing.
ON, Mattias Eklundh - To me, no one sounds like Mattias Eklundh. He's mastered harmonics all over the neck. This song is 30 minutes straight of Mattias goodness. That's all you need to know!
Get the Funk Out, Extreme - Nuno Bettencourt is one of the most underated players out there. This song's verse riffs and solo are great. I've always been a fan of Gary Cherone as well, and even liked his time in Van Halen (runs away).
Notorious, Al Di Meola - From his album Opus, Notorious is a 5 minute powerhouse of acoustic and electric playing from one of our times fastest and most exciting players.
Serotonin, Angel Vivaldi - What's new about this song? Its video which features Angel Vivaldi and co. in some very boy band-esque choreography. Also, it features Nita Strauss and Angel with some killer harmonies towards the end.
Power of Soul, Jimi Hendrix - I'm always happy when I hear there's a new Hendrix album coming out, and this year we received more Hendrix! There was never a studio version of this track, until this year. How wild is that?
All of Creation, HYVMINE - I first heard of Al Joseph when watching his lessons on Jam Track Central. His band HYVMINE is exciting rock, and I love the 7 string riffs Al creates. The verse riff for this song is a lot of fun.
Just A Little Lie, Stone Temple Pilots - STP soldiers on with a new singer that sounds like Scott Wieland. This song sounds like classic STP with a Zeppelin twist. The DeLeo brothers have written great music for decades now.
Salt + Charcoal, Plini - A guitarist who has blown up in popularity this year is Plini. This song is a single he released this year which sounds like it could've fit well on his Handmade Cities album. Great playing, and great production.
The Ninjas I, Mr. Fastfinger - The Way of the Exploding Guitar was re-released this year, and The Ninjas I was always one of my favorite tracks from this album, featuring Mr. Fastfinger, Mattias Eklundh and others trading lead lines.
Guitar Shop, Jeff Beck - Talk about a guitarist whose lasted over the decades. The song Guitar Shop has some funny guitar dialog, and Jeff's signature Strat & whammy bar playing, plus an amazing backing band. Tone for days.
Long Road Home, Johnny Hiland - This song sounds like something Eric Johnson would release, but with Hiland country twang and licks. It still amazes me how well Johnny plays while being legally blind - no easy feat.
Echo, Incubus - Mike Einziger is one of my favorite players, especially for his great songwriting and use of effects. Echo is a quieter song that employs techniques that Mike learned from none other than Steve Vai.
Nightrain, Guns n' Roses - Not much needs to be said about this classic track from Appetite for Destruction. This is Slash with some smooth as heck blues rock playing. I'm hoping for a new GnR album soon.
Texas Crazypants, The Aristocrats - Guthrie Govan is hands down my favorite player, and this track from their latest album fits the song's title to a T. It's a hell of a ride of a song, with all the Aristocrats craziness I've known to love. These are 3 of the greatest musicians out there.
Riviera Paradise, Stevie Ray Vaughan - Like Lenny or his cover of Little Wing, Riviera Paradise is one of my favorite quieter SRV tracks. I remember watching him on a Texas live DVD when I was a kid, and being blown away how great of a player SRV was. One of the kings of blues.
Radiator, Paul Gilbert - Paul Gilbert has always been synonymous with guitar. His playing and teaching over the years have been truly inspiring. Radiator is a slower song with some great modulation on Gilbert's sound. Can't recommend this whole album enough.
Damn Right, I've Got the Blues, Buddy Guy - One of the last standing great bluesmen of our time. This song is a Buddy Guy classic. If you haven't been out to see Buddy live in concert, fix that!
Bad Horsie, Steve Vai - A song so heavy and cool it inspired the name of Steve's own wah. Bad Horsie is an enormous sounding song with one of the coolest riffs, some interesting slides, and of course, great wah playing.
American Saturday Night, Brad Paisley - I'll admit it, I wasn't into any country guitar until I heard Brad Paisley. Brad's playing is fire on American Saturday Night. Listen to the whole album and see if it changes your mind about country music.
Cowboys From Hell, Pantera - Dimebag is a guitarist we lost way too soon. Pantera's always been one of the most classic metal bands of all time. CFH is Dime and co. at their best.
The Struggle Within, Metallica - An often overlooked gem of Metallica is The Struggle Within, which closes out Metallica's black album. I picked this song for how fun Kirk's solo is at the end of the track. You have those wah drenched signature double stops which sound so good.
Crying's Just A Thing You Do, JD McPherson - I listened to this song and it's accompanying album a ton this year. You gotta listen to the absolutely wild sounding guitar solo that starts at 1:43.
Everybody Loves You, Kaki King - Kaki King was the first player I ever heard who used the entire guitar to play notes, percussion and make other sound effects. This title track is off the first album I heard from Kaki, and I can't recommend the entire album enough. She paved the way for other artists who love this style.
Ace of Aces, The Fearless Flyers - Cory Wong, Vulfpeck and his side project the Fearless Flyers have been having a tremendous year on tour, on social media, basically everywhere. Their brand of funk and smooth jazz is exciting and is turning a ton of people on to the genre.
Muzzle of Bees, Wilco - This year I saw Nels Cline at the airport in Denmark - truly small world stuff as I've always been a fan of Wilco and Nels' side projects. I picked this song because of the beautiful rolling acoustic playing and Nels' amazing noisy leads.
Play, Dave Grohl - Dave is always trying to dream up something different, and bigger than his last project. This year he played every instrument on this 22+ minute epic rock jam. Check out the awesome companion website.
Remember, Pete Thorn - Off his new solo album, Remember has Pete Thorn playing super melodically. His playing his so emotive, and he's one of the best players out there right now. Whether he's doing a song or a gear demo, his playing always speaks to me.
Poundcake, Van Halen - From the Van Hagar era of VH, what's not to love about this song? Beautiful, huge sounding chorusy distorted chords, and Van Halen playing his guitar with a drill!
Whiteworm (live), Marty Friedman - Marty has released some great albums since his time in Megadeth and has become one of my favorite players - I was lucky enough to see him live this year on his solo tour. Whiteworm features great playing, with latin breaks, and huge bends (2:02) that are a Friedman signature. The live version is great, but I might like the studio version even more.
Fear the Unknown, Michael Romeo - Possibly the most Yngwie-sounding track on this playlist comes from the great Michael Romeo. It's 80's sounding shred with great vocals and guitar to match, while still sounding very current.
Culture Shock, Alex Skolnick Trio - Alex is another guitar player where you have to ask, what can't he play? This track is from his trio album, and is country-fied. I also saw Alex join the G3 tour for a date this year, and shred some great solos. A real chameleon of a player.
Let's Go Crazy, Prince - Who doesn't know the intro to this song? Prince was an iconic musician for our times, and this song always makes me happy. Plus it has one of the best live-sounding endings of any song.
Combo Theme, John Scofield - Throughout the last couple of decades, Scofield has taken jazz in new places and broken a lot of jazz "rules". He has such a particular, on the brink of out of tune sound that absolutely works for him. I love the feel of this song.
Missin' Yo' Kissin', Billy Gibbons - From the man that brought you La Grange and beard harmonics, we have a cut off Billy Gibbons' new album. If you love ZZ Top, you'll dig this track, which layers guitars to sound super bluesy and heavy.
Valley of Fire, Jason Becker and the Magnificent 13 - Jason Becker came out with a new album this year, and that's still something I can't believe I'm typing, because I'm SO happy it's real. This song features one of Becker's compositions, and a whopping thirteen different guitar heroes. Everyone from Vai to Marty Friedman, Jeff Loomis and more. An incredible track that's just over 9 minutes.
Saucy, Polyphia - Many people try to copy the new age shred stylings of Polyphia, but Polyphia themselves are still the kings of this sound. The tones are nasty and dirty, and are on the brink of breaking up, and the playing is truly something else.
You Dig, Oz Noy - From volume 2 of his Twisted Blues series, Oz Noy has a happy jazzy/bluesy/country number with Oz's signature modulated guitar tone. Oz is a seriously underappreciated player. Go check out the rest of his catalog after you're done with this album!
Juke on Jelly, Cory Wong - Cory Wong made this list twice this year! Juke on Jelly is a feel good song with funky strat guitar tones, a bubbly lead vocal by KATIS and a fantastic clavinet solo by Marti Fischer. I could listen to this song all day.
Square Dreamz, McRocklin - Thomas McRocklin is the king of Instagram guitar heroes. He made his comeback this year after being out of the music scene for some time, and I'm so glad he did. This song sounds like shred + video games - Thomas is a unique player. After checking out his solo EP, you've gotta take a listen to his "shredwave" stuff with his McRocklin & Hutch band.
'Cause of Breakfast, Mike Keneally - Mike Keneally has played with everyone from Satriani to Zappa, and is equally skilled on guitar and piano (even when he's playing them at the same time!) Cause of Breakfast is a wild song with some juicy guitar tones that I can't get enough of. A super trippy song, on an equally weird but great album.
Alpha, Periphery - I'm a big fan of Misha Mansoor, and the song Alpha from his band Periphery is one of the most fun riffs I've heard. Periphery reminds me of a band from the earlier 2000's, but with a more modern twist.
The Ballad of Buckethead, Buckethead - The output of Buckethead still blows my mind - over 260 albums! While you contemplate how that's even possible, you should check this song out, which also features the great Les Claypool on bass, singing a history of Buckethead.
Theme from a Perfect World, Andy Timmons - Theme from a Perfect World is a great track that mixes up styles of Eric Johnson, SRV, and even Hendrix. Andy's playing is all sorts of beautiful on this track. One of my favorite moments of all time was when Steve Vai saw Timmons in the crowd at a show, gave him his guitar, and Andy started soloing with no problem before handing the guitar back to Vai - simply awesome.
Digging In, Big Wreck - Ian Thornley and all of his music is some of my favorite music of all time. Not only is he a great guitar player, he's also a killer songwriter and top notch singer (who reminds me of Chris Cornell). Digging In has that signature Big Wreck meets Zeppelin style, and is rockin' with a cool production style.
No One's Gonna Love You, Band of Horses - You'll find many guitar heroes throughout the playlist, but No One's Gonna Love You is one of the more subdued guitar songs on here. I think it always says a lot to be able to get a beautiful melody with just a few notes and some effects (ala the Edge in U2). My favorite part of this song is the delayed drenched guitar, which absolutely makes this song.
Love and Pain, Doyle Bramhall II - Whether it's his solo work, with Clapton, or a number of other artists, Doyle Bramhall II has been busy. Love and Pain is a smokey, blues rock song with some amazing, Hendrix sounding backwards guitar parts that you've gotta hear.
Oblivion, Mastodon - Mastodon has gone through a lot of changes over the years, but one thing that hasn't changed much is them carrying the torch for bands like Sabbath. Oblivion has an eerie sounding intro, into the band's signature riffery. If you love riffs, you'll love Mastodon, plain and simple!