RastachildDallas, Texas“Salting the Wound”There’s nothing Rasta or child-like about this percolating mélange of relentless solos, clanky rhythm guitars, and syncopated riffs. At times, everything threatens to collide like a bad-traffic day in a Tule fog, but, somehow, the melodies and grooves all work together to create an ever-shifting tornado of thrills.myspace.com/funkymuthasproductions
Jon MerrimanSacramento, California“Solitary Man”Covering a Neil Diamond tune could be considered a cheesy move for a solo-acoustic player, but Merriman pulls off the stunt with dignity by virtue of his solid bass lines, chiming melodic arrangement, and uplifting integration of strummed and picked parts for the choruses. Things get a bit jumbled after the bridge, but, overall, this is a nice ride.myspace.com/jonmerriman
SolartisticKennesaw, Georgia“Mind’s Collide”Trippy stuff, here, but it’s also very commercially smart in the sense that it inserts a beguiling melody amongst the song’s bizarre swoops, noises, and cascading echoes. Guitarist J.S. Begley evokes Bridge of Sighs-era Robin Trower, and then starts playing like a Tasmanian Devil on crack. Fabulous.myspace.com/solartistic
Eric MantelChicago, Illinois“Tribute”Mantel was featured in GP’s Spotlight column in 1991, and he certainly hasn’t been sleeping since then. “Tribute” is a masterful and electrifying celebration of rock guitar, from wah yelps to soaring melodies to raging harmony lines to nasty slide licks and more. This is true “guitar hero” territory—humbling, educational, and inspirational.myspace.com/mantel
Kick in the CanParis, France“Girl”Making like missing cousins from the Nuggets family of garage rockers, guitarists Gregoire Nachbauer and Thomas Schmitt infuse “Girl” with spiky counterpoint riffs, buzzy vocals, and dreamy breakdowns snatched from the Zombies’ playbook. There’s a wonderful sense of drama to the arrangement’s ebb-and-flow, and a marvelously out-of-control outro solo. Boss!myspace.com/kickinthecan
John RickardPhoenix, Arizona“Dust Devil”There’s plenty of ache and atmosphere in this tender, yet driving track. Rickard unleashes some nice runs, but he opts for mood over chops. It’s a good strategy, because what kicks your ass about this tune are the sensual sounds of Rickard’s melancholy Tele, sparkling acoustic, and slinky pedal-steel. myspace.com/johnrickard
Starr FaithfullAllston, Massachuetts“Your Life”This conventional rocker is little more than Bon Jovi lite, but check out the subversive stuff guitarist Jodee Frawlee concocts under the surface. Her tremolo undulations and spooky noises are the stars of this show—which makes you wonder what marvels she’d conjure if she wasn’t hemmed in by pop-rock clichés.myspace.com/starrfaithfull
Paige HarwellEdmond, Oklahoma“Country Shred”Country shred has been explored by John 5 and others, but its combination of clean-toned, immaculate precision and saturated fury makes for a stylistic peak few dare to climb. Harwell approaches the challenge with maddening fluidity, delivering flurries of down-home pickin’ and soaring metal crescendos with spot-on grace. myspace.com/paigeharwell
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