Some Of My Favorite Country Music Lead Guitarists

Country music guitarists don’t get the credit they often deserve. Reason why? Well, let’s just say you aren’t there to perform outlandish guitar solos like those lead guitarists do at a Rock or Heavy Metal concert. There are some several Country music great lead guitarists and this list here, are some of my favorite lead guitarists that have played in Country music over the last 50+ years.

14. Duane Denison: Duane is part of Hank 3’s Damn Band on tour. His guitar technique is more based on Punk Rock and other elements of Heavy Metal. What he offers up to Hank 3, is a heavy crisp sound during the live performances which incorporate Country, Metal, and Punk.

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Johnny Hiland

13. Johnny Hiland: Johnny is best known for his lead solos on Hank 3’s studio albums. Although, legally blind, his style of chicken picking brings a certain traditional sound to Hank 3’s overall sound.

12. LeRoy Powell: Best known as the lead guitarist with Shooter Jennings’s old band the 357’s, until they were fired by Shooter. I love his style that incorporates his influences of Eddie Van Halen, Neil Young, and Jerry Reed.

11. Vince Gill: Although, I am not a big fan, he does have my respect as being one of Country music’s best lead guitarists of all time. He has conducted a very successful solo career after leaving Pure Prairie League. He was also a member of the Cherry Bombs, a Country music super group.

10. Brad Paisley: I like Brad’s style of guitar picking. He was influenced by Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck for starters as well as other Country musicians such as Alabama.

9. Greg Martin: The lead guitarists of a band that calls themselves as Heavy Metal Bluegrass, the Kentucky Headhunters. Greg’s style of incorporating Blues with that big electric sound was far ahead of the time in Country music. He is a big influence on many younger pickers for sure. His work on “Electric Barnyard” is amazing.

8. Waylon Jennings: Waylon is on this list as he is one few Country music signers who actually did lead guitar. He has that certain style and sound incorporating Blues, Texas Swing, and Rock n’ Roll. He was also the guitarist for Buddy Holly’s band.

7. Merle Travis: Could easily been the best all time Country music guitarists. He incorporated so many musical styles that included ragtime, blues, boogie, jazz and Western swing. His style featured many rapid chord progressions, harmonics, slides and bends, and key changes. He played by a combination of finger picking and flatpicking.

6. Wayne “Animal” Turner: Wayne’s work with Hank Jr. and the Bama Band is impressive. He incorporates that southern sound into the style of Country music that he plays. His leads are among the best in Country music.

5. Carl Perkins: This guy may have created Rockabilly guitar that has influenced so many from Country music to Punk Rock. He incorporated Blues and Rock n’ Roll in order to mixed it with Country music that helped to jump start the Rockabilly craze.

4. Roy Clark: Another guitarist who helped to popularize Country and Bluegrass music. Many will recall him as being on the HeeHaw Show, but his guitar skills reach back into the 1960’s. I love the song “Roy’s Guitar Boogie.” He sure knew how to boogie and play the rag. It’s a shame that once a great guitarist, is now showing up on the top lists of guitarists that are forgotten.

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Jerry “The Guitar Man” Reed

3. Luther Perkins: He was the guitarist for Johnny Cash until his death in 1968. His guitar playing can be heard on the songs like “Walk The Line.” His style of Boogie music and Rockabilly has influenced many generations and genres of music.

2. Chet Akins: Chet has done much for Country music guitar. He knew how get around the fret board. He had a very distinctive picking style that influenced so many guitarists. Although, often credited with Country music, Chet played Folk, Jazz, Rock, Rockabilly, and Blues. He is also credited for saving Country music by inventing that Nashville Country music sound.

1. Jerry Reed: Discovered by Chet Akins, Jerry is one of few guitarists who created his own style of playing that is hard to reproduce. He knew the ins and outs of the guitar. His Claw style of finger picking and lead guitar makes him one of my favorite Country music guitarists.

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Straight to Hell: Hank3

Rating: 90%

Hank_III_Straight_to_Hell“Straight to Hell” is a double CD release by Hank3 in 2006. When I heard this album for the first time, I remember thinking about how much darker in lyrical terms it was compared to the first two albums Hank3 released. Musically, it’s a lot heavier. Also, this was the first Country music album to wear the Parental Advisory for lyrical content and to where Wal-mart had a clean version of the album for it’s customers to buy. Again, Hank3’s third album here is much darker and heavier than his previous two, but it is an enjoyable album, if one can handle the drug references and the F bomb.

The album begins with a sweet melody that seems to be old timey. After that introduction, it’s full throttle for the most part. Some of my favorite early Hank3 songs are on this album. The entire album has a good clean sound with the exception of the second disc which is more background noise driven. Musically, this album is a mixture of gospel, traditional Country, Heavy Metal, and Punk thrown in and incorporated into Hank3’s main sound. Instrumentation is very good all around.

Lyrically, this album is very dark. Lots of drug references may keep the traditional Country fan from enjoying his music, or at least make it uncomfortable for the listener. Hank3 also pays tribute to some of his Country music heroes including Waylon Jennings. Anther interesting point, it seems that Hank3 is really pissed off. Number one he’s pissed at the record company, two, I think he’s a bit pissed off at his father and adopted son Kid Rock. “Not Everybody Likes Us” is a good song to listen to in order to hear what I mean. There is also a good bit of humor in the lyrics. “My Drinkin’ Problem” is a humorous song about a woman telling her man to quit his drinking or she’ll leave him. After nearly drinking himself to death to see if she would really would leave, she did.

I love Hank3’s music. He is a brilliant musician, song writer, and entertainer. There is no comparison of Hank3’s style to compare it to, but vocally, I swear he is just like his grandfather Hank Williams.

Track listing:

Disc I:

1. “Satan Is Real / Straight to Hell (Medley)” 3:08
2. “Thrown Out of the Bar”  2:07
3. “Things You Do to Me”  2:22
4. “Country Heroes” 3:29
5. “D. Ray White” 3:47
6. “Low Down” 3:24
7. “Pills I Took”  2:31
8. “Smoke & Wine” 2:36
9. “My Drinkin’ Problem” 2:42
10. “Crazed Country Rebel”  3:09
11. “Dick in Dixie”  2:37
12. “Not Everybody Likes Us” 4:30
13. “Angel of Sin” 6:07

Disc II:

1. “Louisiana Stripes”  3:28
Medley
2. “I Could Never Be Ashamed of You” 42:00
3. “Smoke & Wine (Slowed Down Version)”
4. “Alone & Dying”
5. “On My Own”
6. “Back by My Side”
7. “Take My Pain”
8. “What’s His Name”
9. “Loaded 44”
10. “Up in Smoke”

Orange Blossom Special: Johnny Cash

Rating: 90%

Orange_Blossom_Special.pngI found this record in great condition for .25c and I could not resist, I had to grab it. The year was 1965 and it saw the release of Johnny Cash’s “Orange Blossom Special” which is an album he collaborated with Bob Dylan backstage trading songs.

Musically, there is a good balance of styles ranging from Folk, Country, Gospel, and Rockabilly.  This album comes during the height of Johnny Cash’s career and drug use. The entire album is very good. Lot’s of good bass lines, soft drumming, and guitars. Vocally, Johnny sounds good. Lots of good material on this album including the title track. Lyrically, it’s both, dark and inspiring.

Track listing:

Side One:

1. “Orange Blossom Special”  3:06
2. “The Long Black Veil” 3:06
3. “It Ain’t Me Babe”  3:03
4. “The Wall” 2:09
5. “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” 2:56
6. “You Wild Colorado”1:45

Side two:
1. “Mama, You’ve Been on My Mind” 3:02
2. “When It’s Springtime in Alaska” 2:36
3. “All of God’s Children Ain’t Free” 2:11
4. “Danny Boy”  5:08
5. “Wildwood Flower” 2:10
6. “Amen” 2:05

Encore: Micky Gilley

Rating: 80%

R-1363360-1273502073.jpeg.jpgPicked up this album for a few bucks just because it had “Don’t The Girls All Get Prettier At Closing Time.” Micky Gilley’s style of music during the 1960’s and 1970’s was overshadowed by his cousin Jerry Lee Lewis. But as with any musician, he re-branded his style in the 1980’s and still puts out music to this day.

This record here just showcases some of the popular songs that Gilley recorded in the 1970’s. The music on here is Country, it’s a bit Rockabilly, and it’s a bit Honky Tonk and some Boggie Woggie. The price was right and it found a new home in my record collection.

Track listing:

A1 Stand By Me 3:35
A2 Here Comes The Hurt Again 2:45
A3 Just Long Enough To Say Goodbye 2:33
A4 Window Up Above 2:36
A5 The Song We Made Love To 2:12
B1 Don’t The Girls All Get Prettier At Closing Time 2:56
B2 Overnight Sensation 2:45
B3 City Lights 2:45
B4 I Overlooked An Orchid 2:59
B5 Bouquet Of Roses 2:24

Live!: Jerry Reed

Rating: 90%

r-3046137-1318534382-jpegIn 1979, guitar legend and Country music legend Jerry Reed released “Live!” I have always admired Jerry’s sense of humor and his style of guitar picking. I have always said it, Jerry Reed is Country music’s forgotten hero, both for his song writing and playing.

The “Live!” performance sounds great on vinyl. It’s both up beat and entertaining. This set listing has some of the lesser known songs and a few of his most popular songs including “East Bound and Down.” This live performance also has Jerry Reed entertaining the crowd by telling some stories about the songs or just talking to them.

This live performance begins with a hard hitter “It’s Got To Come Out.” This is one of several songs recorded live that showcases Jerry Reed’s talent on the guitar. It’s up beat and has a fast tempo. “I Wanna Go Back Home To Georgia” has a big female choir and some orchestra. But it balanced well with a soothing sound of guitar picking.  The next song “The Line In Gasoline” is a lively tune with a lot of humor. I love how this song deals with the cost of gasoline. It also has some great banjo and guitar work with a quirky chorus. “Hot Stuff” has a funky tempo and a funky chorus, but it again has some fantastic guitar riffs and leads. “Nine Pound Hammer” takes this traditional song and plays it like no other. It’s his guitar and him. This song alone, is classic Jerry Reed guitar picking. Side A ends with the humorous, tongue and cheek “I Crapped Myself Into The Poorhouse.”

Side B begins with the mild and slow tempo “El Paso” which again showcases what a great guitarist he is. “May The Bird Of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose” is an up beat high flying tune. “I’m Your Guitar” is a reflection of his guitar and the story of his guitar that is told by Jerry Reed. This is the long drawn out spoken lead up to “Guitar Man.” Great story, but this bogs the live performance down a bit. “Guitar Man” and “East Bound and Down” both are the grand finale and are what makes this live performance both energetic and entertaining.

Side One:

A1 Introduction 0:43
A2 It’s Got To Come Out 2:15
A3 I Wanna Go Back Home To Georgia (AKA Little Things) 3:17
A4 (Who Was The Man Who Put) The Line In Gasoline 2:50
A5 Hot Stuff 2:27
A6 Nine Pound Hammer 1:06
A7 I Crapped Myself Into The Poorhouse 1:40

Side Two:

B1 El Paso 2:13
B2 May The Bird Of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose 1:12
B3 I’m Your Guitar 1:13
B4 Guitar Man 2:40
B5 East Bound And Down 3:29

I Feel Alright: Steve Earle

Rating: 85%

Steve_Earle_-_I_Feel_Alright_CoverartI’ve always liked Steve Earle since “Copperhead Road” was released in 1988. He fuses country, folk and rock into his own brand of Country Rock music. This fusion is what I liked about his music. It was like listening to Tom Petty, Merle Haggard, John Mellencamp and Neil Young all in one.

Steve Earle released “I Feel Alright” in 1996. This album has some really great songs on here. The title track for one “Feel Alright” has a lot of attitude and is like a tiger that has been let out of the cage. It has a heavy acoustical opening which is quickly followed by the rest of the band. His southern drenched raspy voice is amazing.

“Hurtin’ Me, Hurtin’ You” is another great song off this album. It starts out as a country slow song. But by the second verse, the music deepens. The chorus is a mixture of clear undistorted guitars, while a lightly distorted guitar is in the background. Then the bridge comes which is sloppy, but, it’s a work of art at the same time. You can feel the pain in this song from the music to the way Steve Earle sings.

“Poor Boy” is a nice piece of Country music that is influenced by Rockabilly. The melody and tempo are both a nice nod to the old days of Johnny Cash.

“The Unrepentant” is the heaviest song on this album. The electric guitar on this song is borderline Hard Rock. The drumming is very aggressive and features a few offbeats that is not normally found in Country music. The lead on this track is great. It has a groovy riff too.

“CCKMP” or “Cocaine Can’t Kill My Pain” is about the drug addition that grasped Steve’s life. It’s just Steve and a Dobro. The song itself has a very eerie, deep and heavy sound to it. It’s aggressive lyrics and vocal style is so evil.

This album is not a bad album. There are many good songs on this album that are uplifting and some that are just downright sad. These songs are part of Steve’s recovery and therefore, are coming from his heart.

Track Listing:

“Feel Alright” — 3:04
“Hard-Core Troubadour” — 2:41
“More Than I Can Do” — 2:37
“Hurtin’ Me, Hurtin’ You” — 3:21
“Now She’s Gone” — 2:48
“Poor Boy” — 2:55
“Valentine’s Day” — 2:59
“The Unrepentant” — 4:31
“CCKMP” — 4:30
“Billy and Bonnie” — 3:39
“South Nashville Blues” — 3:39
“You’re Still Standin’ There” — 3:24

Sweet Love Feelings: Jerry Reed

Rating: 80%

Jerry-Reed-Sweet-Love-Feelin-536230Riding the tide of Smokey Bandit, Jerry Reed released “Sweet Love Feelings” in 1978. This album is a mixture of classic Country music mixed with a dash of the Bayou and a touch of Disco. It also features the love song “(I Love You) What Can I Say.”

Musically, this album is good. It features Jerry’s classic guitar picking and chords.  There’s a good bit of lead guitar on this record. The song structures are blended to where the Country-Pop and traditional Country are still vibrantly heard. Jerry does pull from some of his Rockabilly styles and collides them with some of the more progressive styles. Jerry’s vocal work is still top notch.

Track listing:

A1 Sweet Love Feelings
A2 Louisiana Lady
A3 Reverend Joe Henry
A4 You Know What
A5 I Feel For You
B1 (I Love You) What Can I Say
B2 Hold Tight
B3 Banjo Man
B4 You’re Gonna Need Someone
B5 Busted