It’s no secret that Nashville is home to more incredible guitarists than any other place on earth. Here’s a list of five country pickers with enough chops and dizzying technique to make even Yngwie Malmsteen envious.
Jerry Donahue, "The Beak," Telecasting Recast
Jerry Donahue is a true ninja of the Telecaster. On his country guitar workout “The Beak,” Donahue digs deep into his bag of tricks to show off some acrobatic fretting techniques, including steel-style double-stop swells, cross-string scale runs and his signature behind-the-nut bends.
Donahue has performed with a number of diverse acts including Robert Plant, The Yardbirds and Roy Orbison and is also a founding member of the instrumental country-rock group The Hellecasters.
Albert Lee, "Country Boy," Live At The New Morning
Albert Lee, who hails from Leominster, England, of all places, is perhaps the most influential electric country guitar player alive today. Though he has never achieved much commercial success, fellow musicians, including Eric Clapton and Steve Howe, have described Lee as a living legend.
It is not an exaggeration to say that the hybrid picking banjo-style rolls and hot chicken-pickin' licks heard on his song “Country Boy” have been studied and emulated by just about every guitarist in Nashville.
Lee has played with country icons including Emmylou Harris and Ricky Skaggs and continues to tour today with his band Hogan’s Heroes, featured in the video below.
Johnny Hiland, "Until We Meet Again," Until We Meet Again
Johnny Hiland’s “Until We Meet Again,” is an Eric Johnson-inspired composition infused with a whole lot of good ol’ fashioned chicken-pickin'. Hiland, who prefers PRS and Music Man guitars over the traditional Telecaster, proves with this performance he is comfortable playing a variety styles and techniques ranging from flat-picking to finger tapping.
Hiland (who is pictured above) has released two solo instrumental albums on Steve Vai’s label, Favored Nations, and is making a name for himself as one of the leading guitarists among a new breed of virtuosos.
Check out this video of Hiland performing “Until We Meet Again” at The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee. Look out for the “Cliff’s of Dover” string-skipping lick at 4:12.
Brad Paisley, "The Nervous Breakdown," Who Needs Pictures
Though you may be familiar with Brad Paisley for his country radio hits and duets with Carrie Underwood, he is also a seriously badass guitar player. On his instrumental “Nervous Breakdown,” Paisley rips some blinding hybrid picking licks and open string pull-offs that should earn respect from even the most cynical country music haters.
You can hear Paisley just about any time you turn on a country radio station, but be sure to check out his excellent guitar solos on songs including “Ticks” and “American Saturday Night.”
Here’s Paisley performing “Nervous Breakdown” live at Austin City Limits:
Danny Gatton, "Funky Mama," 88 Elmira St.
Deemed “The Humbler” by fellow guitarists who dared to share the stage with him, Danny Gatton was a master of country, bebop and rock 'n' roll guitar playing. On his instrumental “Funky Mama,” Gatton showcases a combination of squawking country bends, bluesy double stops and soaring Les Paul-esque lines.
Gatton tragically took his own life in 1994 but remains a favorite amongst guitar aficionados. Check out this live performance of “Funky Mama” at Austin City Limits.