Throughout, Clark displays that rarest of guitar gifts: The ability to make you stop in your tracks every 30 seconds and mutter, “What the eff was that?”

Album

St. Vincent
St. Vincent
Loma Vista/Republic

It’s not like we need more evidence that Annie “St. Vincent” Clark is a stunningly imaginative art-rock guitarist, but here it is. We’re talking sludge-fuzz blasts … fancy-ass Steve Howe runs … violent stop-and-start phrasing … and that’s just on “Birth in Reverse,” the lead single from St. Vincent’s fourth studio album.

Clark seems to have a honey badger’s regard for classic rock tones. Hers are harsh, even grotesque. They blat with flat, full-frequency distortion likely to fry the pacemakers of vintage tone snobs. With her overstated digital effects and flatulent synth filters, Clark can sound downright disgusting. Yes—she’s that good.

But you can’t view Clark’s guitars in isolation—they’re counterpoint to her idiosyncratic vocalizing, scuzzy synths, and sly songwriting/programming. Singing or playing, she boasts a wonderfully eccentric sense of rhythm, one that veers from smoove groove to dying insect. She never quite goes full Ribot on guitar, but she’s certainly got Marc’s knack for slashing across the grain of the groove. Throughout, Clark displays that rarest of guitar gifts: The ability to make you stop in your tracks every 30 seconds and mutter, “What the eff was that?”

Must-hear track: “Birth in Reverse”

Rig Rundown: Adam Shoenfeld

Whether in the studio or on solo gigs, the Nashville session-guitar star holds a lotta cards, with guitars and amps for everything he’s dealt.

Adam Shoenfeld has helped shape the tone of modern country guitar. How? Well, the Nashville-based session star, producer, and frontman has played on hundreds of albums and 45 No. 1 country hits, starting with Jason Aldean’s “Hicktown,” since 2005. Plus, he’s found time for several bands of his own as well as the first studio album under his own name, All the Birds Sing, which drops January 28.

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Diatonic sequences are powerful tools. Here’s how to use them wisely.

Advanced

Beginner

• Understand how to map out the neck in seven positions.
• Learn to combine legato and picking to create long phrases.
• Develop a smooth attack—even at high speeds.

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Knowing how to function in different keys is crucial to improvising in any context. One path to fretboard mastery is learning how to move through positions across the neck. Even something as simple as a three-note-per-string major scale can offer loads of options when it’s time to step up and rip. I’m going to outline seven technical sequences, each one focusing on a position of a diatonic major scale. This should provide a fun workout for the fingers and hopefully inspire a few licks of your own.
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