Cage the Elephant’s Nick Bockrath joins us in riffing on our current top players and musical fixations.

Q: Who is your favorite guitarist right now? Why?

Photo by Chris Kies

Nick Bockrath (Cage the Elephant)Guest Picker
A: Tiger Merritt of Morning Teleportation, our dear friend who recently passed away. He was one of the most special musicians I’ve ever heard or played with. His playing style was completely unique—few people truly have a “voice” on guitar and he absolutely did! I highly recommend checking out Expanding Anyway and Salivating for Symbiosis. I’ve also been really digging a Tuareg guitarist named Mdou Moctar. I saw him and his group play in Nashville a few years ago and the musicianship completely blew me away. Must listen!

Current obsession: Playing pedal steel. I even played it on the new Cage album. I’ve always loved the sound and feel that the possibilities are really limitless. Most people associate it with country, but steel can be amazing in any style of music. It really can “sing” and pull a lot of emotion out. Living in Nashville, I’m lucky to hear some of the best guys in the world around town, which is amazing.

Jenny GruberReader of the Month
A: St. Vincent. Someone once said if rock doesn’t constantly reinvent itself, it deserves to die. Annie Clark has blessed us with the next evolution of rock, unencumbered by expectations that rock must look like this or cover that subject matter. Technical but dance-worthy, combining lush melodies like “Human Racing” with livewire riffs like “Bring Me Your Loves” and chainsaw solos like “Marrow,” Clark combines influences as far apart as Fripp, Prince, and Pantera into a new style of guitar for a future where she reigns supreme.

Current obsession: The lyrics of J.R. Hayes from Pig Destroyer, the music of Kate Bush, and the entirety of You Won’t Get What You Want by Daughters.

Ted DrozdowskiSenior Editor
A: Anthony Pirog, who I met at a Rig Rundown last year and recently heard performing with the Messthetics at the Big Ears Festival, is the finest guitarist to come onto my radar in years. He’s trad, he’s out, he’s a master of technique, tone, and effects. He’s everything I love in one player.

Electro-Harmonix’s Ravish Sitar pedal. I just got one and it’s insanely complicated, and most of the sounds aren’t like a sitar, but they’re still crazy cool. I really need to shed with this box. A lot.

Andy EllisSenior Editor
A: Blake Mills. To my ears he combines Bill Frisell’s harmonic and melodic adventurousness with Ry Cooder’s deft slide chops and love of deep, deep grooves. If you’re not yet familiar with this California-based guitarist and producer, you’ll need to watch several videos before you can even begin to wrap your head around his work—Mills’ toolbox is that large.


Current obsession: PG’s Jason Shadrick turned me on to Tyler Mahan Coe’s Cocaine & Rhinestones podcast—a fascinating oral history of old-school country music and honky-tonk. If you’re a steel-guitar nut like me, you’ll love the episode “Ralph Mooney: The Sound of Country Music.”

Plus, the Fontaines D.C. axeman explains why he’s reticent to fix the microphonic pickup in his ’66 Fender Coronado.

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The emotional wallop of the acoustic guitar sometimes flies under the radar. Even if you mostly play electric, here are some things to consider about unplugging.

I have a love-hate relationship with acoustic guitars. My infatuation with the 6-string really blasted off with the Ventures. That’s the sound I wanted, and the way to get it was powered by electricity. Before I’d even held a guitar, I knew I wanted a Mosrite, which I was sure was made of fiberglass like the surfboards the Beach Boys, Surfaris, and the Challengers rode in their off time. Bristling with space-age switchgear and chrome-plated hardware, those solidbody hotrod guitars were the fighter jets of my musical dreams. I didn’t even know what those old-timey round-hole guitars were called. As the singing cowboys Roy Rogers and Gene Autrey strummed off into the sunset, the pace of technology pushed the look and sound of the electric guitar (and bass) into the limelight and into my heart. Imagine my disappointment when I had to begin my guitar tutelage on a rented Gibson “student” acoustic. At least it sort of looked like the ones the Beatles occasionally played. Even so, I couldn’t wait to trade it in.

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Need an affordable distortion pedal? Look no further.

We live in the golden age of boutique pedals that are loaded with advanced features—many of which were nearly unthinkable a decade or so ago. But there’s something that will always be valuable about a rock-solid dirt box that won’t break your wallet. Here’s a collection of old classics and newly designed stomps that cost less than an average concert ticket.

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