For fans of old-school classic rock, you know the deal: the genre is packed with expressive vocals, thundering drums, thumping bass, and most importantly, blasting guitars.
Many of us grew up listening to the likes of Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, KISS and Heart on FM radio and sometimes that could get a bit stale and certainly repetitive. And so, when the new wave of classic rock was ushered in over the past decade, many were perhaps a bit skeptical.
It didn’t take long for nostalgia to come face to face with the volcanic creativity pouring from the pores of newcomers like Greta Van Fleet, Thunderpussy and Dirty Honey. Furthermore, and to the surprise of many, these rising stars not only met the expectations set by their forebears, but in many cases exceeded them.
We can say a lot about the new wave of classic rock, but let the guitarists who have shaped the era thus far do the heavy lifting. What follows are nine guitarists who define the new wave of classic rock.
9. Griffin Tucker from Classless Act
Listen to: welcome to the show
As newcomers to the new wave of the classic rock scene, the Classless Act took a big step forward in 2022. First, the Los Angeles-based group released their debut, aptly titled, welcome to the show, and then the young rockers were booked as the opening act for the 2022 Stadium Tour. Classless Act do a lot of things right, but their guitar-based heroism is where this band shines. Fueled by Griffin Tucker’s searing leads and ear-imploding power chords, it’s not hard to imagine Tucker rising to the top of the proverbial heap in 2023.
8. Hannah Findlay of Stonefield
Listen to: To turn off
Alongside her skin-thumping sister, Amy, Hannah Findlay of Australian rock group Stonefield is taking her guitar-playing heroism to new heights. A sublime amalgamation of hard rock with psychedelic follies not seen in some time, Findlay is a rare breed in a sometimes stagnant era. Known for wielding a mix of Gibson Les Pauls and SGs, Findlay’s fuzzy exploits on Stonefield’s record are a throwback late-’60s beauty.
7. Jake Kiszka as Greta Van Fleet
Listen to: highway song
Loved by some and ridiculed by many, there’s no denying that Michigan’s Greta Van Fleet helped usher in the new wave of classic rock. Sure, they carry their influences on their collective covers (hello, Led Zeppelin), but that doesn’t minimize the band’s exploits, specifically in regards to their lead guitarist, Jake Kiszka. Playing Greta Van Fleet’s fountain man (and Jake’s brother), Josh Kiszka, Jake has managed to remind fans of the classic rock magic of the ’70s, and for that, we’ll always be grateful.
6. Tyler Bryant from Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown
Listen to: Ghost Rider
Hailing from Paris, Texas, and with a signature pink Stratocaster in hand, Tyler Bryant has combined blues and hard rock music in a way not often seen since Clapton’s days with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers. And with Brad Whitford’s son Graham taking over the rhythm duties for Shakedown these days, now more than ever, Bryant has the space and freedom to howl at the moon with vigour. Inherent skill aside, what makes Bryant unique is the guttural soul he injects into his playing, allowing him to converse with listeners through a unique musical language.
5. Blake Allard from Jolly Wolf
Listen to: Bold
With a Les Paul in hand, Orange County native Blake Allard harkens back to the classic rock era through his unique vintage aesthetic and cataclysmic riff-driven style. Truly humble yet utterly talented, Allard’s solos rush through the listener’s speakers with dizzying intensity, culminating in sudden blues-driven choruses immersed in graceful splendor. Some musicians have the “it” factor and the young guitarist from Joyous Wolf certainly has it in spades.
4. Tristán Tomás de Florencia Negro
Listen to: Can you feel it?
Tristan Thomas of Welsh trio Florence Black makes his Les Paul howl with excitement and screen with pain, and he does it with a mile-wide grin sliding across his bearded face. If you’ve heard the super-heavy music of Florence Black, then you’ve witnessed Thomas’ unique blend of the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, which is as singular as it is familiar. There’s something about Thomas’ playing that penetrates the souls of unsuspecting listeners on a molecular level. For that reason, this once-in-a-generation talent is one to keep watching.
3. Jared James Nichols
Listen to: hard wired
Nichols has probably been on most listeners’ radar for some time now, and it’s for good reason, as his Les Paul-accented bluesy riffs and solos are vital cogs in the new wave of classic rock. Having recorded some of the most notable music in the genre over the past decade, Nichols’ impact on young guitarists and the genre’s viability are unshakable. Furthermore, his ability to carefully balance his ability to shred against the need to maintain listening skills is just one of many calling cards of his that Nichols has painstakingly honed over the past decade.
2. Whitney Petty from Thunderpussy
Listen to: Velvet Bow
During the classic rock heyday of the ’60s and ’70s, the scene was unfairly lacking in female heroes. But as long as there are bone-crunching guitar heroes like Thunderpussy’s Whitney Petty, the future all the way looks a lot brighter. A beacon of light for young women looking to play guitar, Petty has aided in the revival of classic rock in the modern age through heavy riffing, tasteful yet mind-altering soloing, and a knack for writing catchy songs. Few guitarists in today’s scene strut across the stage quite like Petty, and for that reason, along with dozens of others, Thunderpussy and Petty’s applause is well deserved.
1. John Notto from Dirty Honey
Listen to: scars
Dirty Honey have become darlings of the new wave of the classic rock scene, and to be fair, it’s not hard to see why. The band as a whole is exceptional, but with a guitarist like Massachusetts native John Notto on board, success was all but predetermined. With a late ’50s Les Paul Burst in hand and a divine ability to unleash the Kraken through riffs, seismic grooves and unholy solos, Notto is the perfect example of all things classic rock in the modern age. Few guitarists are worth the price of admission on their own, but in the case of John Notto, we have one of those rare breeds.
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