50 Badass Blues Solos You Must Hear: Part 3 (VIDEO)


Here's our third batch of the 50 Badass Blues Solos You Must Hear—from Jack White to Dickey Betts, from David Gilmour to Gary Moore. We’ll post 10 entries a week for you to study and enjoy.

Be sure to check out the informative evaluations and synopses included with each video. You can find part one right here, and part two here.

Jack White

“Ball and Biscuit”

Jack White kicked the blues straight in the nuts on “Ball and Biscuit” utilizing a bizarre, ferocious sound the likes of which had never before been heard in the history of America’s senior guitar genre. No “real” bluesman would have imagined such blasphemy as a Detroit garage punk playing a plastic guitar (’64 Montgomery Ward Airline) with a fuzz-drenched, Whammy-infected tone on a blues romp. White made it his signature tone, and his signature guitar album, Elephant, landed him his first Guitar Player cover story (June 2003). The bombastic trio of solos throughout White’s sideways statement “Ball and Biscuit” play like a blues from hell trilogy. —Jimmy Leslie

Dickey Betts

“Stormy Monday”

Half of one of the greatest guitar teams of all time, Richard Betts’ job description involved going toe-to-toe with the genius of Duane Allman night after night. At the Fillmore East, on an evening recorded for posterity, he had the unenviable task of following Duane’s incendiary solo on the blues chestnut “Stormy Monday.” After Duane comes Greg Allman’s jazz waltz organ solo. As the band breaks it down from there, Betts begins his sliding, squeezing, and screaming licks that build into a masterpiece of soul, lyricism, intonation, and tone that give away nothing to his legendary partner. —Michael Ross

Ry Cooder

“Feelin’ Bad Blues”

In interviews over the years, slide guru Cooder has shared some juicy details about his hot-rodded guitars and unusual rigs. It’s tempting to tag a particular pickup, compressor, or amp when trying to pinpoint the source of his mystical sound, but let’s face it—it’s a touch thing. That’s most apparent in his nakedest recordings, like this laid-back guitar-and-dolceola duet from the Crossroads soundtrack. Cooder has always shunned picks, and this cut shows just how adept he is with his bare hand. Working in open-D tuning, Cooder blurs the line between rhythm and lead. You may be inspired to take up a bottleneck and start practicing—or quit altogether. —Adam Levy

Robert Cray

“Chicken in the Kitchen”

Though he owes much of his success to a fairly slick, mainstream crossover sound, Robert Cray can play no-holds-barred blues with the best of them. Recorded live, “Chicken in the Kitchen” (on Cookin’ in Mobile) not only features some of the most beautiful, sparkly, out-of-phase Strat tone you’ll ever hear, it also has not one but two great solos. Number two, especially, is full of incredibly cohesive lines with blindsiding surprises, occasionally getting close enough to the edge that you start worrying whether Cray will make it out alive. –Teja Gerken

David Gilmour

“The Blue”

You could say David Gilmour has never played anything that wasn’t the blues—after all, Pink Floyd was named for blues musicians Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. Gilmour’s tone and vibrato have always been touchstones of the modern electric blues sound. Though he played a number of awesome solos with Pink Floyd, “The Blue,” from his own 2006 record, Islands, deserves mention for several reasons. Reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac’s “Albatross,” the solo quickly pushes the envelope with evocative whammy-pedal work, which continues throughout, seamlessly woven into classic Gilmour licks delivered with the gorgeous tone and pocket that make him a guitar legend. —Michael Ross


Jeff Healey

“How Blue Can You Get”

Healey’s blindness and unconventional playing style never hindered his ability to turn in amazing guitar performances, one of many being “How Blue Can You Get” from his posthumous 2008 release, Mess of Blues. Healey burns white hot here, pulling off wickedly fast lines and dramatic bends that defy the physical realities of holding a guitar flat on his lap. And if that’s not enough, visit YouTube to also see what a gifted jazz trumpeter Healey was. What an incredible musician! —Art Thompson

Elmore James

“It Hurts Me Too”

No doubt, “Dust My Broom” is slide guitarist James’ signature song, but there’s so much more mojo to be found in his cover of Tampa Red’s “It Hurts Me Too”—if only for his sound. (You can bet your best bottleneck that Ry Cooder has listened to this recording more than a few times.) James takes full advantage of this throaty tone, letting his notes speak in vocal-like phrases. Whatever there is to say in open-D tuning, James says it here—with astounding character and confidence. Blues doesn’t get much bluer than this. —Adam Levy

Eric Gales

“The Change in Me”

Based on a riff that borrows heavily from ZZ Top’s “La Grange,” Eric Gales’ “The Change in Me” is a hard-driving rocker of a tune, and Gales plays highly melodic fills to provide a dynamic counterpoint to the crunchy theme. Demonstrated by several YouTube clips of the song, Gales varies the actual solo considerably from one night to the next, often employing a modern-sounding, delay-drenched high-gain tone and a great ability to allow the solo to alternately breathe and burn. –Teja Gerken

John Mayer

“Out of My Mind”

Regardless of whether or not you’re into John Mayer’s songwriting or vocal style, it’s hard to argue with the fact that the guy has chops. Sure, he may not be the most original player to come along, but whether on acoustic, electric, lead, or rhythm guitar, he is clearly in command. Eschewing the slick production found on much of his work, Mayer takes a decidedly more raw approach on the live recording of “Out of My Mind” (on Try!), giving his ES-335 a pentatonic workout with great vibrato, slightly overdriven, fat tone, and an excellent climax before resuming his vocal duties. –Teja Gerken

Gary Moore

“Still Got the Blues”

Moore emerged from early British fusion and then spent his career alternating between turning out hard rock and blues records. It would be easy to go with any of his incendiary solos on a straight blues tune, or one of his letter-perfect recreations of Peter Green on Blues for Greeny, but “Still Got The Blues” is pure Moore. Okay, this cycle of fifths progression is not “the blues” per se, but its sharp five to five resolution is blues approved. More importantly, the yearning in the gorgeous melody that Moore milks on the final solo, before tearing the roof of the sucker, is what the blues is all about. —Michael Ross