Essential Flatpicking Guitar Recordings

It seems today that there are plenty of great new flatpickers to listen to. However all of them have one thing in common, they all listened to and learned from what has become known as the quintessential guitarist of flatpicking guitar. The roots of this small group of players can be traced all the way back to the earliest days of recording with people like Jimmy Rodgers, Maybell Carter, and Rabon Delmore laying the groundwork for what has become flatpicking as we know it today. Below are some brief bios and recommended CDs for listening to these influential players. Hal Leonard has also released a new book titled Bluegrass Guitar: Know the player, Play the music (HL331347) this book will give you much more depth into these players and their lives.
In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s a young kid by the name of Clarence White came on the scene and changed the role of the guitar in a bluegrass band from the rhythm section to playing some lead breaks and fiddle tunes. Clarence and his brother Roland were the backbone of the bluegrass group The Kentucky Colonels, and later he moved to playing electric guitar for the Byrds. Before his untimely death in 1973 he had developed some unique right hand techniques that are commonly used today in rock and country style electric guitar playing. Recommended Listening: 33 Instrumentals (Rural Rhythm 1019), Appalachian Swing (SPR-717)
The folk boom of the 1960’s saw the emergence of Doc Watson‘s solo career. Steeped in old-time and the country music of his childhood Doc started out playing electric guitar in a country/swing band until a suggestion from Ralph Rinzler convinced him to go out on his own and play acoustic. Doc’s long career has teamed him with countless musicians from Bill Monroe to Chet Atkins. Doc has been sited by more flatpickers as a primary influence than any other guitarist in the world. Recommended Listening: Essential Doc Watson (Vanguard-45/46), Doc Watson: Live on Stage (Vanguard-9), Southbound (Vanguard79213)
Norman Blake‘s music has been described as old-timey, American folk, and sometimes bluegrass. Whatever label you try to give it seems to come up short. Norman is of course a gifted flatpicker, but add to that mandolin, resophonic guitar, fiddle, banjo, and let’s not forget he’s written a number of songs that have become bluegrass standards. Norman hit the ground running with his first solo recording Back Home in Sulphur Springs, and has been a backing musician for many top billed acts such as Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, John Hartford, and was featured on the multi-platinum O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack. Recommended Listening: Back home in Sulphur Springs (Rounder-0012) Whiskey before Breakfast (Rounder-0063) Blake and Rice (Rounder-0233) Blake and Rice 2 (Rounder-0266)
Tony Rice‘s Career has taken him from playing Bluegrass to Dawg music to recording more folk ballads and everything in between. Tony’s playing brought more music theory and jazz base to flatpicking guitar as well as adding a blues influence. Up until the loss of his voice in the early 90’s Tony and his band the Rice Unit blazed new trails in the music with flashy instrumentals and tight vocal trios. In more recent years Tony has added a new dimension to his playing with the adaptation of almost chord melody versions of classic ballads such as Danny Boy and Shenandoah. Recommended Listening: JD Crowe & the New South (Rounder-0044), Manzanita (Rounder-0092), 58957: The Bluegrass Guitar Collection (Rounder-11622), The Bluegrass Compact Disc (Rounder-11502)
As stated earlier there are a great number of new flatpickers that have hit the scene in recent years. Below is a list of other required listing for any aspiring flatpicker. Many of these musicians also have instructional DVDs and books available.
David Grier– Lone Soldier (Rounder-0309), I’ve Got the House to Myself (Dread-0201)
Tim Stafford– Endless Line (FGM-114)
Bryan Sutton– Bluegrass Guitar (SUGA-3975), Not Too Far from the Tree: with Heroes & Friends
Jeff Autry– Bluegrass 2000 (PINEC-1097), Bluegrass 2001 (PINEC-1112)
Scott Nygaard– Dreamer’s Waltz (Rounder-0397), No Hurry (Rounder-0267)


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