Devastating displays of double-neck tapping and Joe Bonamassa’s Christmas single: here are this week’s essential guitar tracks

Essential guitar tracks picture with Felix Martin
(Image credit: Felix Martin)

Hello, and welcome to 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…

Joe Bonamassa – Merry Christmas, Baby

Here’s an early Christmas present for you: Joe Bonamassa has released not just a festive-themed single, but an entire Christmas album. Yep, that’s right: the blues rock virtuoso has dropped 14 fully fledged festive tracks, treating each to his trademark style of ultra-precise pentatonic picking and scintillating scale sleight of hand.

Album closer Merry Christmas, Baby is a fine way to, erm, wrap up the record, with JoBo letting loose on a number of interlude lead licks and a scorching solo around the two-minute mark. (MO) 

Felix Martin – Gatherpiece 

One of the world’s foremost double-neck tappers – who now runs his own guitar company dedicated to the art, FM Guitars – has announced the first single from his forthcoming solo effort The Gathering.

Inspired by Martin’s love of Magic the Gathering cards, the track is led by a series of chordal melodies, which blend piano and guitar tonalities for a borderline baroque vibe. Yet the tapping sensation soon goes medieval on your ears with a frenetic flamenco-esque 16-string slapdown atop a 10-string bass hammer fest. It’s a devastating showcase of the potential of Martin’s many-stringed instruments. (MAB)

J Mascis – Set Me Down

The Dinosaur Jr. man’s new solo album What Do We Do Now drops on February 2 and this second single is already on repeat round these parts. It’s got a chunky acoustic backbone that plays nicely with the bass riff and Mascis’s crisp vocal is in goosebump-inducing form.

However, it’s the minor key middle eight shift – a sort of eerie, eye of the hurricane moment, where the song suddenly parts and opens, only to rejoin in a crackling solo – that really has us hooked. (MP)

Walter Trout – Bleed (feat. Will Wilde)

Bleed, the first single from guitar veteran Walter Trout’s forthcoming solo effort, Broken, is definitely of the ‘woes of the heart’ strain of the blues, but cliché it is not.

With more than half a century of road miles behind him, Trout is the farthest thing in the world from a blues lawyer, and indeed, Bleed is an absolute burner – complete with a nasty, sneering solo punctuated by whopping bends.

Incredibly vocal, the lead break feels like a high-wire act from which Trout could tumble at any time – storytelling at its finest. (JM)

Cigarettes After Sex - Motion Picture Soundtrack

Radiohead are one of those bands that are so entirely the sum of their unique parts that they are nearly impossible to cover well. However, this take on Kid A closer Motion Picture Soundtrack is worthy of your time.

Recorded in 2015, but only just seeing the light of day, it smartly translates some of the synth-y lines into reverb and delay-laced guitars – a reverse of the very transformation Radiohead went through in making that album. In doing so, it gives the song new life. Dare we say it: an ‘original’ Motion Picture Soundtrack. (MP)

Joanne Shaw Taylor – All The Way From America

Joanne Shaw Taylor can swap licks with the best of them, but her new cover of Joan Armatrading’s All The Way From America shows her equally impressive skills as an interpreter.

Taylor’s fills in the chorus perfectly complement the vocals, and her evocative solo eschews showiness for storytelling, digging into her country influences over the course of its eight bars. (JM)

Alleviate – Better Pt. 1

Chug flurries, dissonant flourishes, gnarly arpeggios and blockbuster choruses: all are essential ingredients in Alleviate’s mainstream-bothering brand of metalcore, which has already got heavyweight guitar influencers like Nik Nocturnal all hot and bothered. And given Better Pt. 1 features some of this year’s most savage breakdowns, we can see why. (MAB)

Kid Kapichi – 999

If Slaves and Royal Blood formed a supergroup, the resulting music would probably sound eerily similar to the tunes currently being pumped out by up-and-coming UK-based heavy riffers Kid Kapichi.

That sentiment is evidenced in new single 999, which further ups the ante through an angsty lyrical flow, unrelenting razor-like guitar riffs and a chaotic, gut-punching finale. (MO) 

Hermanos Gutiérrez – Blood Milk Moon

Their first new music since 2022, this is an unreleased cut from the El Bueno Y El Malo sessions. That album featured Dan Auerbach as producer and you can hear the Black Keys’ man’s quivering touch from the opening seconds here.

It’s laced full of Latin and country licks, and a swaying groove – all rendered in Auerbach’s crackle and pop production. (MP)

Betcha – Body Language

With a cinematic approach to visceral six-string soundscapes reminiscent of Bring Me The Horizon and Of Mice & Men, Betcha have followed up their latest record, Placebo, with an EP worth of bonus tracks.

Body Language is the pick of the bunch, loading that aforementioned operatic bed of guitars with fizzy licks and unhinged breakdowns. (MO)

Prognosis – Kissing Vipers

In this standout from new EP Esigen, the djent-adjacent UK metallers have struck upon that rarest of riffs: one that seriously slaps with a clean tone and floors buildings with the gain cranked.

Where some modern metal can leave your brain the second the next track lands, guitarist (and GW scribe) Phil Weller knows just how to wring an earworm drop out of his Strandberg – not to mention a hook-laden lead or two during the track’s heroic solo. (MAB)

Also on this week's playlist...

  • Brand of Sacrifice – Purge
  • Dead Pony – About Love
  • Ihsahn – Twice Born
  • Enterprise Earth – Casket of Rust
  • Robby Krieger & The Soul Savages – Samosas & Kingfishers
  • Twin Atlantic – Asleep
  • Amon Amarth – Saxons and Vikings
  • The Shredderz – I Can't Remember Christmas

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.