Cary, Illinois “Into the Pinnacle”
Hess may not be the most prolific guitarist around—he apparently took a full year simply dreaming up the titles to Opus 3—but his prog-y explorations on this tune from 2003’s Opus 2 are caressed by a mysteriously fat and liquid tone, sexy bends, and a sorcerer’s command of dark, beautiful melodies.
Dead Air Radio
Nashville, Tennessee “Liberation”
DAR’s Bill Givens is a crafty, inventive, and powerful guitar player. From the intro’s noise spurts, through at least 5,786 changes of mood, his facility with diverse rhythms, tones, melodies, and riffs is truly awe inspiring. His competent-but-not-great vocals are the only drag in what could be a monster track with the right singer.
New South Wales, Australia “Hot on Ya Heels”
The tough, take-no-prisoners solos from David Hinds evoke those blood-and-sweat Aussie kill factories (i.e. clubs) where bands survive only as long as they can keep the patrons dancin’, hollerin’, and drinkin’. Thankfully, when the Bounty Hunters are blasting, I don’t think anyone needs to fear the reaper. They rock that hard.
Belfast, Northern Ireland “Tribute to Roy Buchanan”
Roy Buchanan is sadly long gone, but Fulton channels the Tele master’s volume swells, soaring bends, melodic mojo, on-the-tip-of-destruction note flurries, and even his finger scrapes. He doesn’t go for Roy’s piercing tone—which will be sweet to some ears—but everything else is played with fire and respect.
Asheville, North Carolina “Imagine Your Lover”
DiMaio starts off all tongue-in-cheek and white and funky—like a less manic Ian Dury—but the genius in this track is that the party actually shakes its way to a thrilling climax, with each musical section capped off by wilder and wilder guitars. Such nasty fun. Shame on you, Robert!
San Jose, California “Loose”
Guitarist Bill Lonero and crew have gear endorsements out the wazoo, promotional help from Apple Computer, two-million MySpace plays, and they claim to have invented “instrumental guitarcore,” so you should really hate them. But you can’t, because they’re just so damn good. This song kicks ass—it’s melodic, blistering, and brilliant.
London, England “Elishala”
Briggs’ buoyant techno/world hybrid cooks along like a dervish, spewing oddly seductive timbres from an Algerian mandole and an acoustic-electric resonator. The music is a pageant of counterpoint and contrast, as the track is simultaneously joyous and haunting, precise and raw, and familiar and exotic. It’s a mind-bending ride.
Dana Point, California “Mindful Tonglen”
“Mindful” must have been dropped on its head at birth. It jabbers through various punky funky and shred sections without much coherence, but when Ecklund uncorks his demented “Dear Prudence” lick, it’s like everything suddenly makes sense, and you feel like a jerk for not trusting him.