Top 15+ Great Contemporary Blues Rock Guitarists 2020

In 2020, enthusiasts of blues and rock genres were treated to an extraordinary array of exceptionally talented guitarists, offering a wealth of options for music aficionados to explore and admire. The realm of blues excellence has transcended the pages of history and the works of the Old Masters, presenting a vibrant landscape of contemporary virtuosos.

In this compilation, we present our selection of the top 15 contemporary blues rock guitarists, listed in no particular order, who are worth immersing yourself in, pandemic or not.

While there are numerous other musicians contributing remarkable work, these artists consistently dominate our playlists here at Rock and Blues Muse. Any choice from this roster guarantees a satisfying musical experience, so delve in and let the rocking commence!

Contemporary Blues Rock Guitarists

The landscape of contemporary blues rock guitarists is a dynamic and exhilarating realm that showcases the evolution and fusion of musical traditions. In the 21st century, a new generation of guitar virtuosos has emerged, breathing fresh life into the timeless genres of blues and rock. These musicians seamlessly blend the soulful roots of blues with the electrifying energy of rock, creating a sound that resonates with both seasoned enthusiasts and a younger audience.

Unlike the bygone eras where blues and rock were dominated by a select few, today’s scene boasts a diverse array of talents, each bringing their unique flair and innovation to the forefront. The advent of technology and increased accessibility to music has allowed these contemporary blues rock guitarists to reach global audiences, transcending geographical boundaries and connecting with fans from all walks of life.

1. ERIC GALES

vRegarded as one of the premier guitarists on the global stage, Eric Gales stands out not only in blues-based rock but also in jazz and an array of other musical styles. His innate musicality surpasses the bounds of genius, making any creation bearing his name a must-listen. Displaying versatility across genres, Gales effortlessly navigates the musical spectrum from classical to roots music.

A prodigious talent, Gales began his journey with the guitar at the tender age of four, evolving into a multi-stylistic player who has left an indelible mark on the music scene. With 18 albums to his credit as a leader, Gales has proven himself not only as a prolific artist but also as a recipient of two Blues Music Awards for Blues/Rock Artist of the Year.

For a glimpse into the magic that surrounds Eric Gales, explore his latest offering, “The Bookends,” and discover why he continues to be a focal point of acclaim and admiration in the world of contemporary music.

2. JOE BONAMASSA

A luminary in the world of contemporary guitarists, Joe Bonamassa emerged as a prodigious talent and has become one of the most prominent figures in the current music scene. Renowned for his exceptional skill and articulate playing, Bonamassa has a predilection for vintage equipment and produces expansive, resonant tones. His prowess extends seamlessly across blues, rock, and acoustic genres, marked by a fervor and precision that elicits awe from his global fanbase.

Beginning as a protégé under the tutelage of the late guitar maestro Danny Gatton, Bonamassa has evolved into a fully-fledged recording artist, showcasing both technical proficiency and a refined musical sensibility. With a discography that reflects his mastery, his live performances, exemplified by albums like “Live At The Sydney Opera House,” are a testament to his ability to captivate audiences and leave them astounded. Prepare to be swept away by Bonamassa’s electrifying talent and his unparalleled command over the guitar.

3. JOANNA CONNOR

Hailing from the vibrant blues scene of Chicago, Joanna Connor has been a stalwart contributor to the genre for an extended period, continually refining her craft with each new musical offering. Renowned for her formidable prowess as a slide guitarist, she ignites musical flames wherever her performances take her, employing a rich tone and assertive phrasing that leave an indelible mark.

Her latest album, “Rise,” has garnered widespread acclaim since its release, captivating blues enthusiasts who find themselves irresistibly drawn to Connor’s commanding and dynamic sound. While she has become an established institution in the blues-rich landscape of Chicago, a viral video of her electrifying live performance catapulted her musical prowess beyond local boundaries, turning her into a global internet sensation.

For those yet to experience the sonic force that is Joanna Connor, the time to remedy that situation is now. Her powerhouse sound and masterful command of the blues make her a must-listen for aficionados and newcomers alike.

4. JOE LOUIS WALKER

A stalwart in the contemporary blues realm, Joe Louis Walker has long been perched at the summit of the genre, and his fiery guitar prowess shows no signs of waning. Inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame and a four-time Blues Music Award recipient, Walker boasts a career that spans an impressive half-century. His latest album, “Blues Comin’ On,” showcases a collaborative effort with fellow legends such as Jorma Kaukonen, Keb’ Mo’, Eric Gales, Lee Oskar, and others, culminating in what can only be described as a super session.

Walker’s presence in the blues world is nothing short of monumental, a status he has rightfully earned. Recognized as a top-tier player, a soulful vocalist, and a prolific songwriter, he embodies the essence of the blues tradition. To immerse oneself in Walker’s music is to experience the convergence of skill, emotion, and storytelling—a journey that promises not only musical satisfaction but also an uplifting spirit. Listen in and let the blues-infused melodies of Joe Louis Walker bring joy to your soul.

5. ROBBEN FORD

Robben Ford stands out with one of the most distinctive blues guitar styles, a testament to his immense talent and deep jazz roots. He has crafted a unique blues fusion vocabulary that is immediately recognizable, showcasing a musical identity that is entirely his own.

Throughout his illustrious career, Ford has collaborated with a diverse range of artists, including luminaries such as Joni Mitchell, Jimmy Witherspoon, Miles Davis, George Harrison, and Bob Dylan. In each collaboration, he seamlessly intertwines his playing, finding exquisite ways to connect with the musical essence of each artist.

As a solo artist, Ford’s definitive albums, such as “Talk To Your Daughter,” exemplify his sophisticated approach, high energy, and a tone that can only be described as heavenly. Ford consistently exudes a sense of being entirely in his element, delivering performances that never fail to captivate. If you’re already a fan, you’re likely familiar with his ability to transcend genres and create a musical experience that is both timeless and unparalleled. For those discovering him anew, Robben Ford’s artistry is a journey well worth undertaking.

6. JOSH SMITH

Josh Smith, a virtuoso in roots guitar, emerges as an extraordinary talent with a seasoned and expressive playing style. From the young age of 12, he has captivated audiences with a mature and spellbinding fusion of rock, blues, and jazz in his songwriting and performances. Smith’s musical journey has consistently placed him in the spotlight, showcasing a prowess that transcends his years.

Having shared the stage and recorded with notable artists like B.B. King, Mick Jagger, Elton John, Joe Bonamassa, Jimmy Thackery, Tinsley Ellis, Kenny Neal, Lucky Peterson, Matt “Guitar” Murphy, Johnny “Clyde” Copeland, Double Trouble, Joanna Connor, Kim Simmonds, and more, Smith has become a sought-after collaborator in the music industry.

His recent album, “Live at the Spud,” captures Smith and his trio at the peak of their abilities, presenting a must-listen experience for guitar enthusiasts worldwide. Whether you’re drawn to his impressive collaborations or his solo endeavors, Josh Smith’s artistry is a testament to the enduring power of his guitar work and his ability to weave a mesmerizing musical tapestry.

7. ALBERT CASTIGLIA

Albert Castiglia, a blues/rock guitar maestro hailing from Florida and a recipient of the 2020 Blues Music Awards, is a volcanic player with an abundance of chops that can rival any guitar hero of past or present. His musical prowess is characterized by incendiary guitar licks and confident lead vocals, marking him as a formidable force in the blues and rock genres.

Castiglia’s journey into the blues began by backing up Chicago harmonica icon Junior Wells, providing him with an invaluable firsthand education in playing the blues at the highest level. Throughout his career, he has released nine solo albums, each brimming with his signature fiery guitar work and commanding vocal performances.

The latest addition to his discography, the live set titled “Wild and Free,” serves as a compelling showcase of Castiglia’s electrifying talents. It promises to swiftly bring listeners up to speed with the raw energy and skill that define his musical offerings. For those seeking a dynamic and immersive experience in blues and rock, Albert Castiglia’s catalog is undoubtedly a treasure trove of sonic delights.

8. MIKE ZITO

A recipient of the Blues Music Award, Mike Zito stands out as one of the most remarkable figures in the realm of roots music. Renowned for his incredible guitar prowess, exceptional songwriting skills, and visionary approach to the blues, Zito has established himself as an epic force in the music industry. Notably, he was among the first artists to publicly adapt to the challenges posed by COVID-19.

His recent album, “Quarantine Blues,” bears testament to Zito’s resilience and creativity. Written and recorded during the lockdown that followed the cancellation of his European tour due to the pandemic, the record reflects his ability to channel adversity into art. While many may recognize Zito from his days with Royal Southern Brotherhood, he has undeniably emerged as a bona fide star in his own right.

A true artist, Zito is a beast on the guitar, delivering both scorching solos and captivating compositions. With a repertoire of hot playing and cool songs, he invites listeners to embark on a musical journey that is as diverse as it is compelling. For those ready to dive into the world of Mike Zito, it’s a musical odyssey that demands attention and promises a rewarding sonic experience.

9. CHRISTONE “KINGFISH” INGRAM

Christone “Kingfish” Ingram stands as the beacon of the blues’ future, a young prodigy who first seized attention as a teenage guitar phenomenon and has now evolved into a Grammy-nominated artist with a rapidly ascending career. Hailing from Clarksdale, Mississippi, Kingfish has left an indelible mark with his profoundly soulful guitar and vocal performances, a remarkable feat for a musician barely 22 years old.

His debut album, appropriately titled “Kingfish,” is a testament to his undeniable talent and authenticity. Widely acclaimed, the album is hailed as the Truth and more. Ingram is a once-in-a-generation artist, poised at the beginning of what promises to be a stellar career. His music embodies the essence of a rising star, leaving an indelible imprint on the blues landscape.

As Kingfish continues to shape the future of the blues, his impact resonates far beyond his years. Gratitude is extended to Alligator Records for providing a glimpse into the compelling artistry of this remarkable young talent.

10. DEREK TRUCKS

Derek Trucks, the virtuoso of the slide guitar, has been astonishing audiences since his youth. Nephew to Butch Trucks, the drummer of the Allman Brothers Band, Derek emerged as a guitar prodigy, setting the music world ablaze from an early age. His musical journey led him to establish his own band, attain official membership in the Allman Brothers, and earn a Grammy with the immensely popular Tedeschi Trucks Band, a collaboration with his wife, Susan Tedeschi.

Trucks’ artistry is a fusion of masterful slide guitar work and a deep musical understanding that transcends genres. A Grammy-winning artist, he has left an indelible mark on the music scene. For those venturing into his expansive catalog, the 2019 album “Signs” by the Tedeschi Trucks Band serves as an excellent starting point, though any selection from his extensive repertoire promises an unparalleled musical experience. Derek Trucks stands as a pinnacle of musical excellence, showcasing that he is, indeed, as good as it gets.

11. SAMANTHA FISH

Hailing from Kansas City, Missouri, Samantha Fish stands out as a stellar guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter with a roots style that effortlessly spans blues, rock, country, funk, and bluegrass. With two Blues Music Awards to her credit, Fish has solidified her reputation as one of the premier live performers in the industry. Her musical versatility and wide-ranging influences contribute to a compelling and dynamic artistic persona.

Known for her captivating presence and unwavering talent, Fish continues to leave an indelible mark on the music scene. Her most recent album, “Kill Or Be Kind,” is a testament to her prowess, showcasing a blend of genres and an artistic fearlessness that sets her apart. In the 21st century, Fish has emerged as one of the biggest talents, with a seemingly boundless ability to navigate diverse musical landscapes.

For those seeking a contemporary artist who effortlessly weaves a tapestry of musical genres, Samantha Fish comes highly recommended. Her contributions to the evolving landscape of roots music make her a standout talent in the 21st century, demonstrating that there’s seemingly nothing she can’t do.

12. JONNY LANG

A luminary in the realm of blues and rock, Jonny Lang has been a prominent figure since his teenage years in the 90s, consistently delivering platinum records. As a Grammy winner, he has achieved significant acclaim, with five albums making their mark in the Billboard Top 200. Lang’s latest offering is the 2017 album “Signs,” but delving into his entire body of work proves to be a rewarding exploration.

Lang is not only a skilled and adept guitarist but also an emotive vocalist, a combination of talents that has kept him in the spotlight throughout his life. His ability to evoke deep emotion through his playing and singing has resonated with audiences worldwide. If it’s been a while since you’ve immersed yourself in Jonny Lang’s music, now is the perfect time to give him a spin and reacquaint yourself with the soulful and dynamic sounds that define his remarkable career.

13. KIRK FLETCHER

Widely regarded as one of the best blues guitarists globally, Kirk Fletcher is a five-time Blues Music Award nominee, earning recognition for his exceptional contributions to the genre. His illustrious career includes performances alongside Joe Bonamassa and Eros Ramazzotti, stints with The Fabulous Thunderbirds and The Mannish Boys, and the release of five albums as a leader.

Fletcher’s distinctive style seamlessly blends blues and R&B, resulting in a sound uniquely his own. Both his vocals and guitar work are exemplary, consistently delivering a powerful and soulful musical experience. His 2018 album, “Hold On,” stands out as a brilliant showcase of his talent, with each track radiating with his masterful phrasing of guitar solos.

Fletcher’s ability to infuse his performances with an unmistakable flair establishes him as a force to be reckoned with in the blues landscape. If you’ve yet to experience Kirk Fletcher’s artistry, it’s a musical journey well worth embarking upon.

14. GARY CLARK JR.

At the forefront of contemporary roots music stands Gary Clark Jr., a Texas guitarist and songwriter who seamlessly merges blues, rock, soul, and hip-hop into a unique, singular sound that is unmistakably his own. Renowned for his ability to navigate diverse genres, Clark’s music carries a distinctive quality that sets him apart.

His work often delves into relevant social topics, evident in his groundbreaking 2019 release, “This Land,” a record that has earned him four Grammy Awards. Clark has played a pivotal role in bringing the blues closer to mainstream consciousness, making a significant impact on the music landscape. His evolving artistry and ability to push boundaries create an optimistic outlook for the future of contemporary roots music, ensuring an exciting journey for all those involved.

15. BUDDY GUY

Buddy Guy stands as a living legend, embodying the past, present, and future of blues guitar playing in a single remarkable career. Rooted in the Golden Era of Chicago blues from the 1950s, his enduring influence continues to resonate today. With a tough-toned guitar style that has left an indelible mark, Guy’s impact extends to legendary figures such as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Over the course of his illustrious career, Guy has amassed eight Grammy Awards, a testament to his enduring musical legacy. His 2018 release, “The Blues Is Alive And Well,” not only serves as a powerful declaration but also reinforces the timeless vitality of his contributions to the genre.

For enthusiasts of the blues, Buddy Guy’s discography is undoubtedly a cherished collection. His ongoing presence in the music scene is a testament to the enduring power of his guitar prowess and the indomitable spirit of the blues.

Fquently Asked Questions

Who are some prominent contemporary blues rock guitarists?

Some notable contemporary blues rock guitarists include Joe Bonamassa, Eric Gales, Joanna Connor, Josh Smith, Samantha Fish, and Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, among others.

What sets contemporary blues rock guitarists apart from their predecessors?

Contemporary blues rock guitarists often bring a fresh perspective to the genre by infusing modern elements, diverse influences, and innovative techniques into their playing. They build on the foundations laid by the blues legends of the past.

How has technology influenced the sound of contemporary blues rock guitarists?

Advances in technology have provided contemporary guitarists with a range of effects, amplifiers, and recording tools, allowing them to explore new sonic territories and experiment with a broader palette of sounds.

Which albums are recommended for someone new to contemporary blues rock?

Some recommended albums for newcomers to contemporary blues rock include “The Bookends” by Eric Gales, “Live At The Sydney Opera House” by Joe Bonamassa, “Rise” by Joanna Connor, and “Kingfish” by Christone “Kingfish” Ingram.

How do these guitarists contribute to the evolution of blues rock?

Contemporary blues rock guitarists contribute to the evolution of the genre by incorporating diverse musical influences, pushing boundaries, and infusing modern elements. They bring a fresh energy while respecting the rich traditions of blues and rock.

Who are some young and rising stars in contemporary blues rock?

Young and rising stars in contemporary blues rock include artists like Kirk Fletcher, Samantha Fish, and Josh Smith. These musicians are making significant contributions to the genre and gaining recognition for their talents.

What role do contemporary blues rock guitarists play in keeping the blues alive?

Contemporary blues rock guitarists play a crucial role in keeping the blues alive by introducing it to new audiences, experimenting with new sounds, and paying homage to the genre’s roots. They contribute to its ongoing evolution and relevance in the modern music landscape.

How has social media and the internet impacted the careers of contemporary blues rock guitarists?

Social media and the internet have provided contemporary blues rock guitarists with unprecedented opportunities for exposure. They can connect directly with fans, share their music globally, and build a following without traditional industry gatekeepers.

What makes the blues rock scene vibrant and diverse in the 21st century?

The blues rock scene in the 21st century is vibrant and diverse due to the infusion of various musical influences, the emergence of talented young artists, and a commitment to both honoring traditions and pushing the genre forward with fresh ideas and approaches.

Conclusion

The world of contemporary blues rock guitarists is a dynamic and thriving landscape that bridges the rich traditions of blues with the innovative spirit of the modern era. Artists like Joe Bonamassa, Eric Gales, Samantha Fish, and others bring a fresh perspective to the genre, infusing it with diverse influences, cutting-edge techniques, and a commitment to both tradition and evolution.

These guitarists not only showcase exceptional technical prowess but also contribute to the ongoing narrative of blues rock by pushing boundaries, experimenting with new sounds, and embracing the power of technology and the internet for global reach. The fusion of blues, rock, and other genres results in a sound that resonates with both longtime enthusiasts and new generations of listeners.

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