You think you’ve heard all the guitar greats? How about these 10 players? They’re not household names but are among the finest modern string pluckers to cut albums and stalk the stage. Some are cult heroes, others obscure – at least for now.

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Kenny Brown

This Mississippi slide guitar great stood on stage next to R.L. Burnside for 26 years and first learned to play from hill country legend Joe Callicott. He’s recorded three excellent solo albums and appeared on a slew of Fat Possum label blues discs as a sideman. And if you’ve seen the movie Black Snake Moan, you’ve seen Brown (in Samuel Jackson’s juke joint band) and heard his deep playing (mimed by Jackson). Brown doesn’t tour widely, but his MySpace page offers music and video, and each year he hosts the North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic music festival in Potts Camp.

Peter Parcek

Buddy Guy has proclaimed this New England roots guitar slinger “as bad as Eric Clapton.” If that’s not enough motivation to check him out, how about a style that blends Django-influenced jazz, deep blues (he’s been a sideman for Hubert Sumlin and Pinetop Perkins), rock, R&B, textural music and shred. When he’s not fronting his own Peter Parcek Band he can be found playing lead guitar for pop internationalists the Singhs. Parcek is at work on his second solo album. Here are four sneak-peek tracks.

Sonny Sharrock

No less than the father of free-jazz guitar, Sharrock spent most of his career as an unheralded genius, blending the modal wailing of John Coltrane with a radicalized approach to slide and a unquenchable thirst for melody. After an apprenticeship in the bands of Pharoah Sanders, Wayne Shorter and Herbie Mann, Sharrock began making albums laced with pure beauty, beginning with his 1969 solo debut Black Woman and continuing – with substantial gaps – to his final masterpiece, 1991’s Ask the Ages. Sharrock died at age 53 in 1994, leaving behind a legacy unlike that of any other guitarist. The video below captures the Sonny Sharrock Band on stage in Prague in 1990.





David T. Chastain

Since his mid-’80s emergence this Atlanta guitarist has been the undisputed god of underground metal. He is a classically influenced player with chops every bit as formidable as Yngwie and Michael Schenker, but more diverse. His 50-odd albums leap from old-school lyric metal to heavy instrumental fusion to improv to southern boogie. Chastain is also the founder of the Leviathan Records label. For an introduction to his high-octane world visit this Web site.

Dom Minasi

This arch-top envelope pusher has been one of the best-kept secrets of New York City’s jazz scene for decades. His radical style, caught live in the 2008 YouTube performance featured below, bridges free-jazz and old-school melodicism, rekindling the excitement of ’60s energy playing. Minasi’s profile has continued to slowly rise since the 2001 release of Takin’ the Duke Out, a brilliant disc featuring Minasi’s interpretations of Duke Ellington compositions. Check him out.



Henry Kaiser

One of the world’s leading improvisational musicians, Kaiser has led a vital career outside the mainstream for 26 years. His reference points runs from Jerry Garcia to Miles Davis to the sounds of the ocean. (He’s also an undersea scientific researcher.) And his playing in all quarters — rock, jazz, blues, folk, world — is unfailingly brilliant and inventive. Kaiser has more then 20 albums to his credit as a leader or soloist, and he’s appeared on many, many more. Then there’s his soundtrack work, including his recent collaboration with fellow guitar legend David Lindley for filmmaker Werner Herzog’s Antarctic documentary Encounters at the End of the World. The only way to get a handle on Kaiser’s sprawling oeuvre is to dive in, preferably at his Web site.



Paul Rishell

This Boston-area guitarist shares America’s best traditional blues duo with his harmonica playing wife Annie Raines, who’s also formidable. Rishell is a master of all country blues styles with an inventive streak that has allowed him to bring the style firmly into the present. There’s a host of videos featuring this artful, precise and deeply soulful National steel endorser at his Web site, including a performance that’s also part of their new live album, A Night in Woodstock. Rishell and Raines have just been nominated for Blues Music Awards for Acoustic Album of the Year and Acoustic Artist of the Year.



Tisziji Munoz

Mixing transcendentalist jazz with spiritualism, Tisziji Munoz makes some of the most high-flying fusion since the Mahavishnu Orchestra’s ’70s heyday. He is a self-taught player with a bold tone and a bent for harmony and melody that has earned him the musical camaraderie of Pharoah Sanders, Rashid Ali and other jazz heroes. Munoz’s masterwork is 2001’s double-disc The Hu-Man Spirit, a freewheeling fusion session full of blazing improvisation. For a complete overview of his work, visit this Web site.



Fred Frith

The only avant-garde guitarist with a richer legacy than Henry Kaiser is this English six-stringer, percussionist, and composer. Fred Frith has been a member of some of the greatest bands in edgy improv-art-rock history, including Henry Cow, the Art Bears, John Zorn’s Naked City, Skeleton Crew and Massacre. If the experimental composer John Cage had played guitar, he’d have sounded like Frith, who can wail or flail with exceptional grace. Wanna see something both strange and musical? Check out this video of Frith playing guitar with a drum stick.



Derek O’Brien

Austin’s been home to many great guitarists, but the least known MVP on the scene is Derek O’Brien, who leads the house band at the famed Antone’s blues club and has backed up a host of greats from local legends like Lou Ann Barton, seen with O’Brien’s support singing “Shake a Hand” in the video below, to greats like Buddy Guy and Muddy Waters. O’Brien has a terse, arrow-sharp and spare style comparable to Jimmie Vaughan’s – light on flash, but soooo right. Check it out.