dave rawlings

Joe Satriani, Thurston Moore, Molly Tuttle, Tommy Emmanuel, John Doe, Lzzy Hale, Kurt Vile, Wayne Kramer, Chris McQueen, and eight more of today’s greats discuss the contemporary players who give them the shivers.

Guitars heroes don’t just play guitar. They live it, breathe it, and love it. And their lifelong fandom extends not only to the instrument but to the players they share it with. We asked 17 of today’s most interesting, inventive guitarists in a wide span of genres about their favorite peers. Their answers are thoughtful, heartfelt, and fascinating—providing insight into not only who they admire but the qualities in their heroes’ playing that inspire them, which in turn reveals much about what they love about guitar. So, plug in and read on!

Buddy Miller on Marc Ribot

Marc Ribot is my guy. I find him fearless, and he knows so much, but it’s not like he applies everything he knows to everything he plays. He can do anything, and it all goes through the filter of Marc, so he doesn’t try to stay in the idiom he’s recording. There’s something subversive about his playing, and him as a person. He’s an agitator. That’s what I love about him. He’ll turn over the applecart, but in a beautiful way. And when I play with him, he challenges me, and makes me play better, and makes me think … but not too much. You don’t wanna think too much, so what’s in you just comes out. And he can balance that. He’s got that brain on/brain off thing.
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A constant in Rawlings guitar chain is a Fairchild compressor. “I’m not interested in the compression as much as the sound its transformers add to the chain,” he says. “It gives a little point to the midrange that makes it easier to poke out from Gill’s guitar and be present under the vocals.”
Photo by Tim Bugbee

This crosspicking dazzler is one half of the finely tuned guitar machine created in tandem with Gillian Welch.

Ghosts glide and whisper everywhere in the music of David Rawlings and Gillian Welch. And it’s been that way since 1996, when the duo made the transition from respected Nashville songwriters to revered roots-music performers with Welch’s debut Revival. Through all their subsequent albums—five under Welch’s name and a pair, including the new Nashville Obsolete, under Rawlings’ solo nom de plume David Rawlings Machine—two things have remained constant: their twined voices and guitars, and those ghosts.

The spirits of the past have never been more present than they are in Nashville Obsolete’s “Bodysnatchers,” where Rawlings channels the Devil-obsessed Mississippi blues pioneer Skip James in his keening tenor singing. The spare pace of the guitars evokes the quiet of the plantation-era Delta at midnight. A moaning violin cuts the stillness between verses like a night bird crossing the moon, and the lyrics—filled with breath by the couple’s trademark close harmonies—spin a web of voodoo, soul-selling, and murder. If “Bodysnatchers” isn’t the perfect Southern Gothic creeper, it’s close.

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