Both shredders first established themselves as top-level hired guns—Nita Strauss (left) with Alice Cooper and Jennifer Batten with Michael Jackson—before setting off on their long careers.

Photo by Ana Massard

These super-guitarists talk about originality, busting the patriarchy, supporting Jeff Beck, touring with Alice Cooper, Demi Lovato, and Michael Jackson, guitar education, their secret weapons, and … oh, how to be badass!

It’s a fact: Women and minority artists have often been marginalized, unacknowledged, and even ripped off—both musically and financially. And while the industry has slowly gotten better about amplifying their significant contributions, white male artists have historically been heralded as the heroes and innovators. Even with all of the progress made in recent years, one niche where bias still seems the norm is “hired gun.” The commonly used term “sideman” demonstrates the pervasiveness of male-dominated norms entrenched in our collective psyche. But there are exceptional sidewomen who have broken the glass ceiling with their primetime gigs. And among the most notable are Jennifer Batten and Nita Strauss.

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Katherine Paul moved back home to the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community in Skagit County, Washington, in 2020, when she began work on this release.

Photo by Nate Lemuel

The alt-rock landscape Katherine Paul creates on her latest release resonates with both her effects-laden guitar work and the feelings of kinship she has with the Earth.

The music of Black Belt Eagle Scout, helmed by Katherine “KP” Paul, is an expression of the heart, one that just so happens to be deeply entwined with Paul’s indigenous roots. And on the band’s latest release, The Land, The Water, The Sky, she’s distilled her personal connection with nature, as well as that love she has for her ancestry, into a set of new atmospheric, lambent, alt-rock tracks, with a range of textures that embody that self-defined world.

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Gov’t Mule: From left to right: drummer Matt Abts, multi-instrumentalist Danny Louis, frontman/guitarist Warren Haynes, and bassist Jorgen Carlsson.

Photo by Shervin Lainez

During the pandemic lockdown, the guitarists and their Gov’t Mule bandmates, cut two albums at once—one a “proper” Mule recording, called Peace…Like A River, and the other a set of mostly classic blues. Haynes and Louis talk about their 6-string partnership, how both albums came together, and the nature of their free-ranging live performances.

Having lived and breathed music nonstop since forming in 1994 as a side project to the Allman Brothers Band, Gov’t Mule is an absolute giant in the jam band scene. Though the Covid lockdown slightly derailed the band’s momentum, it also gave them an opportunity to channel their creative muses in different ways.

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