Posted by: kubiakl | March 1, 2009

How I Got This Way

Since I didn’t agree with Guitar World’s list of the top 50 guitar albums, I thought I should try and do my own.

Then my brain cells kicked in and I realized that would be stupid, for the same reasons I criticized the Guitar World article.  There are just too many albums out there, which means I would certainly leave off many, many deserving candidates.  My personal bias would have also come into play – since I don’t listen to a whole lot of metal, jazz, or prog-rock, those categories would have been underrepresented.

Instead, I decided to do something a little more meaningful to me.  I decided to tell you how I got this way.  And before some wise ass says “Was it the paint chips you ate as a kid?”, I’m talking about how I came to love the guitar.

It wasn’t a family thing.  My parents missed the 60’s so I didn’t grow up on the Beatles or Rolling Stones, and the only instrument that ever got played in our house was a piano.  I grew up on a strange mix of classical (Mom), oldies (Dad), and top 40 and country radio (when I discovered how to change the station on my own).

None of it really had a huge impact on me (aside from a lingering taste for Elvis Presley) until my 8th grade year.

It was 1994.  Everybody was trading Nirvana and Metallica albums, but for my birthday someone gave me a Joe Satriani CD, “Flying In A Blue Dream”.  I had never heard anything like it.  An entire album of mostly instrumental guitar music?  It was like the movie Smallville, where everything goes from black and white to color.  Something about the sound of a guitar grabbed me and didn’t let go.  From that point on I started listening to guitar oriented music, eventually finding my way to Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Eric Johnson, which opened up so many musical doors for me.

And I always said “Some day, I’m actually going to get a guitar and learn how to play.”  But it was always some distant idea, something for Future Me to do.  Future Me finally showed up during my sophomore year of college and convinced me that it was time.  A trip to the now closed Mars Music in Austin yielded a Fender American Standard Strat and a small Vox practice amp.

And now I can’t walk through my apartment without tripping over something guitar-related.

So that was how I came to love and eventually play guitar.  But the main point of this article was to list the albums that inspire me to pick up and play.  So here we go:

Eric Johnson – “Venus Isle”:  “Cliffs Of Dover” from the album “Ah Via Musicom” might be his most famous guitar work but it was “SRV” off the “Venus Isle” album that I really wanted to learn.

Cream – “Wheels Of Fire”:  “Crossroads” is still the song I play the most.  For me, Clapton was never better than when he worked with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker.

Ian Moore – “Ian Moore”:  Yeah, back when he was a Texas guitar titan.  This album was the first time I realized what slide guitar was, on the song “Blue Sky”.

Widespread Panic – “Panic In The Streets”:  Michael Houser was one of my favorite jam guitarists.  And his tone!  Panic made me realize that the guitar shouldn’t overshadow the band.  And not to sound cliche, but the live versions were better.

Stevie Ray Vaughan – all of them:  C’mon, you knew he would be on this list.

Rolling Stones – “Exile On Main Street”:  This is my favorite Stones record.  So many great songs, and their version of “Stop Breakin’ Down” remains the best one I’ve heard yet.  “Tumblin’ Dice” was one of the first songs I learned in Open-G tuning.

Pennywise – “About Time”:  Punk music was definitely an influence, and Pennywise was a favorite.

North Mississippi Allstars – “Shake Hands With Shorty”:  This is the album that turned me on to the one-chord boogie of North Mississippi, and got me hooked on R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough.

Led Zeppelin – “III” and “IV”:  “III” makes me want to pick up my acoustic, “IV” makes me want to turn everything up to 11.

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – “Now I Got Worry”:  Not that I’ve ever played a lick off this album, but it makes me want to grab my guitar and “Wail”.  Their lo-fi blues trash sound is phenomenal.

John Fogerty – “Blue Moon Swamp”:  The riff from “Blueboy”, along with “SRV” and “Wish You Were Here”, was one of the first things I set out to learn when I started guitar.  The whole album is a collection of great riffs, from twangy countrified licks to gritty rock.

Jimi Hendrix – “Electric Ladyland”:  The intro to “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” gives me chills every time I hear it.

Eazy-E – “Eternal E”:  Just seeing if anyone is still paying attention.  If you got this far, congratulations!  You get a prize: more albums.  Enjoy.

Jimi Hendrix – “Blues”:  It’s a compilation of various blues songs he did.  I used to listen to “Born Under A Bad Sign” almost every trip I made back and forth from college.

Drive-By Truckers – all of them really, but especially “The Dirty South”:  This album has such a heavy guitar sound paired with some great acoustic work.  It’s one of the few albums that makes me want to play both electric and acoustic at the same time.

The Black Keys – “Thickfreakness”:  Another band where all of their albums have an impact, but “Thickfreakness” really gets me into a groove.  There’s not a track on there that doesn’t make me want to play.

Supersuckers – “Live At The Magic Bag, Ferndale, MI”:  Love the band, love playing along to the band’s live album.

Screamin’ Cheetah Wheelies – “Lamanamanumi”:  Another great live album that gets me fired up for some Southern fried jam rock.

Okay, we’ll call it a list.  It’s not complete by any stretch of the imagination, but these are some of the albums that get me pumped up to play guitar.  What are some of yours?


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