What guitar player did you see this year that you can’t forget? Heart’s Nancy Wilson and PG editors discuss the best players they saw last year.

Q: Who’s the most impressive guitar player you saw play live in 2017?

Nancy WilsonHeart, Roadcase Royale
A: Ryan Waters. I ought to know because I’m in a band with him! Ryan has incredible restraint as a player. He has the amazing instinct to know when to lay out and create space inside a song. Then when he rips into more lead playing it becomes more meaningful by contrast.

Current obsession: Muscle Shoals, the documentary. There’s so much rich magical lore connected to that studio room and the signature sound of those recordings. It became a Mecca for so many great rock artists to record there, and those artists are interviewed, revealing their experiences making some of the world’s greatest rock music.

John G. SeaboltReader of the Month
A: Charlie Starr and Paul Jackson from Blackberry Smoke. They aren’t out there trying to melt your face with speed sweeps, but what you do get is intricately laid-out rhythms and progressions with some awesome soulful leads. They can rock or they can groove; either way you get some awesome songs and playing.

Current obsession: Pedals, especially the time-based ones. I love playing with the various sounds I can create. Tone is a beast I’m sure I’ll pursue until I die.

Joe GoreContributing Editor
A: Twenty-one-year-old San Franciscan Matt Jaffe. He isn’t flashy—he seems more interested in channeling James Burton and Luther Perkins. His tones are lovely. His rhythms are definitive. He’s a prolific writer, a fine singer, and a passionate performer, and he’s been making good records since age 16. I hate the little bastard. (Just kidding—Matt is a charming young gentleman.)

Current obsession: The Kala U-Bass. I just did a tour with Jane Wiedlin’s band, Elettrodomestico, playing this ukulele-sized, rubber-stringed wonder throughout. It needs tons of downstream processing to blunt the nasty piezo characteristics, but once you perform some corrective sonic surgery, you can feel the lows in your nether regions.

Tessa JeffersManaging Editor
A: Hearing the Edge in the flesh was the most mesmerizing guitar “event” in my life this year. It’s had a lasting impact because, yeah, technical prowess is something, but less common is a feeling of “greatness” from hearing playing that is beautiful to your ears. He’s not a fretboard gymnast—he’s a tonal master. And U2 isn’t really one of my top bands, either. Lukas Nelson’s playing is pure fire, as well. Lookout for that guy.

Current obsession: I’m loving the bolder designs from big-daddy manufacturers. I don’t hate the PRS SE Standard 24 Multi-Foil or the Gibson Modern Double Cut. Do different!

Rich OsweilerAssociate Editor
A: Peter Townshend on a cold August night in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Townshend said how good it was to be in the Bay Area 50 summers after the Who’s first run of shows in ’67 at the Fillmore before playing the Monterey Pop Festival. Damn, was he good. To see him wind countless windmills, hear his unmistakable sound, and feel the energy from his playing—all at age 72—was remarkable.

Current obsession: Haven’t had a piano at home in more than 20 years, but now that we do, I’m remembering how much I love playing and how many creative windows can open when you step away from your main instrument.

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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