Chuck Berry-by-way-of-the-gutter riffs and choppy Strat-isms from Fender's latest signature artist: This week's essential guitar tracks

Steve Lacy
Steve Lacy (Image credit: Fender)

Hello, and welcome to a new Spotify playlist-embiggened Essential Guitar Tracks. As you may well know, every seven days (or thereabouts), we endeavor to bring you a selection of songs from across the guitar universe, all with one thing in common: our favorite instrument plays a starring role.

Our goal is to give you an overview of the biggest tracks, our editor’s picks and anything you may have missed. We’re pushing horizons and taking you out of your comfort zone – because, as guitarists, that’s something we should all be striving for in our playing. 

So, here are our highlights from the past seven days – now with a Spotify playlist (scroll to the bottom for the latest additions).

Brian Setzer – Girl on the Billboard 

Looking for something to spice up your summer road trip playlist? Look no further than the lead single from rockabilly guitar titan Brian Setzer’s forthcoming LP, The Devil Always Collects. It’s pure roadside bar sleaze in the best way – with strutting Chuck Berry-by-way-of-the-gutter riffs, and even a Route 66 namecheck. You’ll want to put the pedal to the metal with this coming through your speakers. (JM)

Steve Lacy – Helmet

The Internet alumnus soared to new prominence in guitar circles with the release of his signature Fender People Pleaser Stratocaster earlier this year, and his custom squeeze makes a cameo appearance in the video for this chill slice of summer R&B. Lacy’s distinctive production nous is at the forefront here, as he layers choppy lo-fi rhythms with tremulous wah swells and twangsome lead lines. (MAB)

Red Devil Vortex – RUN

Luis Kalil already has a seat with his name on it at the table of today’s top shredders, but with each release his chops still find a way to reach new heights. RUN has the usual dose of razor riffs and sound barrier-breaking leads, but the melodies never get lost. Indeed, not only is he a technical monster, Kalil has got an ear that can keep up – a devastating combo that results in some extraordinary fretboard feats. (MO)

Of Mice & Men – Warpaint

The second taster of forthcoming eighth album Tether is a riff masterclass. A chugging thrash number forms the opening backbone, then there’s an infectious pedaltone chorus that blends seamlessly with the song’s synth elements. Elsewhere, there are djent-y elements and a satisfyingly harmonic-laden middle eight. (MP)

Buck Meek – Cyclades

The Big Thief guitarist really shows his Texas roots on Cyclades, the latest preview from his upcoming solo jaunt, Haunted Mountain. In both the song’s curdling fills and twangy solo, Meek updates the Nashville Telecaster textbook for the 21st century, dispensing with some of country’s more tired tropes, and adding some punk-y bite along the way. (JM)

Bad Cop/Bad Cop – Shattered

Reverend’s latest models for Stacey Dee and Linh Le were two of the standout signature guitars at this year’s NAMM, so we’re pleased to see them make their debut in the clip for this fast-paced, feelgood pop-punk rager. Also making their first appearance is guitarist Alex Windsor, who wields an Ernie Ball Music Man St. Vincent for some melodic solo earworms. (MAB)

Meet Me @ The Altar – Give It Up

They only released their debut album a few months ago, but Meet Me @ The Altar aren’t resting on their laurels. Instead, they’ve got even more tracks on the way as part of a Deluxe offering – a surprise collection previewed by the unsurprisingly infectious Give It Up. Interestingly, the pop-punk band have teased these forthcoming tracks will present “another side of Meet Me @ The Altar”, which just makes us wonder: where do they plan to take their already hugely popular sound next? (MO)

Slaughter To Prevail – Viking

Every now and then you hear a track that redefines the term ‘brutal’. Viking, the new single from from Russia’s (anti-war) metallers Slaughter To Prevail is sort of like Batman’s Bane made into song form. It is an aural battering, full of rage and awe-inspiring power – all interlaced with siren-like lead lines that seem to hail its danger. (MP)

Shamir – The Beginning

Though the video for Shamir’s latest single, The Beginning, shows the singer/songwriter idly strumming a Fender California Series acoustic guitar in a park, this tune’s got some meat on its bones in the guitar department. There’s some Drive-By Truckers-esque, Southern rock chunkiness in the song’s main riff, plus there’s the satisfying, grunge-y explosion that leads it out. (JM)

Empire State Bastard – The Looming

Sure, Empire State Bastard – featuring Simon Neil of Biffy Clyro fame, Mike Vennart and Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo – have been on disgustingly heavy form with the initial output from forthcoming debut album Rivers of Heresy, but The Looming takes that Melvins-informed sludge and teams it with the progressive bent of Vennart’s heavier material with former nouveau prog darlings Oceansize. The resultant expansive fuzz onslaught sits somewhere between Boris and Steven Wilson – and on this evidence, that’s a very good sonic space to occupy. (MAB)

Asinhell – Fall of the Loyal Warrior

Michael Poulsen is best known as the vocalist and rhythm man for Danish metal icons Volbeat, but his new three-piece is all about paying tribute to his death metal influences. Impii Hora pays homage to the likes of Bolt Thrower, Entombed and Dark Throne and features a killer melodic solo that combines some beautiful bends with speedy shred licks. (MP)

Soccer Mommy – Soak Up the Sun

Soccer Mommy – aka Sophia Regina Allison – is back once again with what can only be described as this week’s most luscious guitar arrangement, playing host to an expansive reimagining of Sheryl Crow’s Soak Up The Sun. It’s a far cry from the country stylings of the original, but is absolutely quintessential Soccer Mommy: expect shoegaze-y reverbs, quirky modulated licks and fizzy guitar progressions. (MO)

Bad Wolves – Bad Friend

Doc Coyle and co channel peak Pantera with the pitch-shifter throwdowns in this drop-chug monster, which seeks to fuse catchy hooks with uncompromising heaviness. Given the singalong chorus and that broken robot rampage of a middle eight, we’d say it’s mission accomplished. (MAB)

Hot Line TNT - Protocol

The off-pitch guitar glides at the start of Protocol from Third Man-signed NY shoegazers Hotline TNT leave you so woozy that, by the time the meandering bassline hits, you’re glad of the anchor point. A beautiful combo of fizzing distortions, whistling synths and hazy rhythms. (MP)

Also on this week’s playlist…

  • Pretenders – A Love
  • KK’s Priest – Reap The Whirlwind
  • Grrrl Gang – Blue Stained Lips
  • Lydia Loveless – Runaway
  • Cafuné – Demise
  • Bruce Soord – Dear Life
  • Rhiannon Giddens – Yet to Be (featuring Jason Isbell)
  • Slow Pulp - Doubt
  • Scrounge - Corner Cutting Boredom
  • Friendship Commanders – VAMPIRE
  • Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers - I Used To Be Fun 
  • Louise Post - God I Know
  • Beartooth – Might Love Myself
  • Conquer Divide – N E W H E A V E N
  • Duff McKagan – I Saw God on 10th St.
  • Dre DiMura – Crisis Fatigue

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Matt Parker

Matt is a staff writer for Before that he spent 10 years as a freelance music journalist, interviewing artists for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar,, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched, which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.