Midvale School for the Gifted Alumni Association

Monday, August 08, 2005

Guitar Gods

Recently, I was challenged to make a list of my top guitar players of all time. I'm not going to engage in a list, as it will look like every other music rags list of guitar gods in the past 20 years, and who wants to rehash that crap? Instead, I'll tell you a smaller story, which is much more important to me.

I’ve been trying to learn how to play guitar. After years of listening to other people make it talk to me, I’ve decided to try and make it speak on my own. If I practiced more (read: AT ALL), I might have a chance.

In the very beginning, as I was first learning basic chords and names of strings, Dale told me to think about a guitar player I admired, and pretend I’m playing for them. My first thought was Bob Mould, and I immediately flubbed a note. Entirely too intimidating to play for Bob, as I will never be as good as that. So much emotion is entangled in his playing, I fear I could not convey to him all the wonderful sounds he has conveyed to me throughout my life. Although, secretly, I aspire to have one song I play sound as good as Vaporub, or The Slim, or Too Far Down.

Bob has been with me the longest, and during some pretty intense periods, but Ani DiFranco has written my life. When I’m practicing something new, or something that’s difficult for me, I think about playing for Ani. This is the girlfriend who would laugh when I hit the wrong string, and play it back for me, and encourage every small step. Her last few albums have seemed to mirror my own recent journeys, and I appreciate the insight and thoughtfulness behind the notes she’s playing.

If Bob’s the strict instructor that I’m always looking up to, Ani’s the one I want to jam with after the recital’s over. In spite of this, they are very similar to me. They both play their instruments harder than any guitarist I’ve ever seen, sometimes ripping the notes out of the strings with the violence of raw emotion that just rips right through you as you listen. They are intensely personal performers, and hard workers at their craft. Both of them have brought me to tears, either spontaneously or in the context of a collection of songs someone has created for me. I can measure the milestones of my life by the notes of their songs. How many of us are lucky enough to recognize this in our own lives?


Anonymous sheryl said...

I love this post.

I don't play music or sing, but I couldn't imagine life if people like Bob and Ani weren't doing it, making it and sharing it all, with so much passion and so much of themselves.

PJ Harvey, during her Rid of Me and Four Track Demos days, strikes me as someone who played guitar with the power of a supernova.

Also Kristin Hersh, especially live, her new stuff. She's on fire.

10:24 PM  
Blogger Courtney said...

Thanks, Sheryl.

10:29 PM  
Blogger Easy said...

One of the best guitar players I've ever seen is a guy named jim Heath (AKA The Reverend Horton Heat). He lacks the sensitvity of Ani or Bob but he plays a smokin' guitar

8:12 AM  
Blogger Andrew said...

I've got to concur with Easy's comments about the good reverend. He does play a smokin' guitar. Another guitarist I admire is Junior Brown.

I've been contemplating a list of "underrated" guitarists. It will be entirely subjective and, therefore, impeccably sound.


8:23 AM  
Blogger tescosuicide said...

I love that you said, " I can measure the milestones of my life by the notes of their songs". I've always used, "The soundtrack of my life". It is cool to think back to what you were doing when you heard ____... That would be an impossible post... hmmm...

9:49 AM  
Blogger Easy said...

By the way, I covered a lot of this in my posts on Musicology.

10:45 AM  
Blogger trusty getto said...

Hey, my tattoo is of a guitar, which bespeaks my love of the instrument. I've 8 electrics and two acoustics. If I had my druthers, I'd spend all my time playin'.

Ditto Sheryl on the Kristen Hersh, who really *is* on fire.

For some other gtr gods, check out Khaki King (acoustic), Buddy Guy (blues), Leo Kottke (acoustic), Alter Bridge (Mark Tremonti on gtr - hard rock), or any of the golden oldies, like Lou Reed, Rush, Led Zep, etc. I'm an Edge fan, too.

6:14 PM  
Anonymous Bob said...

How's the practice going?

11:56 PM  
Blogger tescosuicide said...

Your teacher's talking to you!

4:36 PM  
Blogger Courtney said...

I know! I damn near wet my pants when I saw the comment.
For those of you arriving late in the story, the Bob in the comments is the same Bob in the story.

7:23 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

I just downloaded Bob Mould's new CD on eMusic last night. Haven't had a chance to fully listen to it yet, but I'm looking forward to turning it up this weekend.

Very cool that he posted on your blog. Even cooler that he has his own blog, too.


9:18 AM  
Blogger David said...

So when you're practicing and thinking of Ani, do you picture her as the woman (whom she voiced) who taught Peggy Hill to play the six-string?

5:27 PM  

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    "So I walk like I'm on a mission, 'cuz that's the way I groove. I've got more and more to do, I've got less and less to prove. It took me too long to realize that I don't take good pictures 'cuz I have the kind of beauty that moves..." Ani D.
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