Despite plague, lockdown, transportation issues, and touring revenue loss, a surprising number of artists managed to release new material last year. Current modern guitar legends, Eivind Aarset, Stian Westerhus, and Nels Cline all make appearances. Legends in the making Ádám Mészáros, Tim Motzer, Nick Milevoi, and Eyal Maoz’s chime in as well. On a sad note, rumor has it that the Rare Noise label is folding. They are going out with a bang though, contributing three records to this year’s list. I hope I am misinformed.
I hope you will indulge me in a little personal reminiscing. I was living in New York City, sometime between 1982 and 1984, when I saw an ad in The Village Voice announcing bassist Percy Jones playing at The Bitter End, a small club on Bleecker Street with a band called Stone Tiger. I was a fan of Jones from his work with Brand X. The ad may have mentioned the other band members, but I had no idea who they were and it was Jones’ name that enticed me to go. Stone Tiger was a trio, with drums and guitar. The guitarist was wielding a Roland 300 guitar synthesizer, but it was not the primitive synth sounds he was getting that astounded me. Whether using the synth or the typical guitar pickups, this was the most revolutionary rethinking of the electric guitar I had heard since Jimi Hendrix played my college gymnasium almost two decades prior. He used a volume pedal to swell notes in from the ether, only to return them through delay and reverb. Echoes of country licks appeared amidst jazz harmonies. The abstraction of his solos made Jeff Beck’s seem hyper-linear. Who was this guy??!!