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From high-octane blues duels to lush baroque-pop: here are this week's essential guitar tracks

Eric Gales performs at the Neighborhood Theatre on June 11, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina
(Image credit: Jeff Hahne/Getty Images)

It’s Thursday yet again, folks, so gather round to hear the guitar universe’s most exciting goings-ons.

Jack White’s back with the high-octane blues-rock for which he’s known and loved, and if you can’t get enough licks, you can hear Eric Gales slug it out with Joe Bonamassa for the “World Heavyweight Guitar” crown.

If that’s not quite your speed, there’s also a heavy-hitter from Mastodon, and an even heavier hitter from up-and-coming Des Moines, Iowa metalheads Vended.

We've got still more exhilarating new songs to check out on top of that quartet, so scroll on down and take a look…

Eric Gales – I Want My Crown (feat. Joe Bonamassa) 

It was an agonizing six-day wait following the announcement that blues titans Eric Gales and Joe Bonamassa were going to lock horns and slug it out in the “World Heavyweight Guitar Battle”. Yet as it turns out, the aforementioned battle isn’t a battle at all, rather Eric Gales’ newest single, I Want My Crown.

That’s not to say there aren't any serious six-string trade-offs in the track, though. In fact, Gales and Bonamassa have served up one of the finest treats of the year for blues fans, pulling no punches and going toe-to-toe in a call-and-response guitar-off that sees the pair conjure up an array of majestic fretboard acrobatics.

The momentum of the clash ebbs and flows, with Gales answering JoBo’s dizzying chromatic runs and pentatonic punches with his own wah-laden jabs and fierce scale run knockouts. Over sporadic eight- and four-bar phrases, the pair pull out every trick from up their sleeves and prove once again that they are, without a doubt, two of the finest blues players around today.

It’s the first track lifted from Gales’ upcoming Bonamassa and Josh Smith-produced album Crown – an effort that is set to be his most personal record to date – and if this taste is a sign of things to come, just imagine what the rest of the album has in store. (MO)

Jack White – Taking Me Back

Jack White is many things – entrepreneur, tinkerer, sculptor, upholstererTaking Me Back though, marks the return of Jack White the guitar-wielding solo artist.

White’s most recent solo material – 2018’s chart-topping full-length Boarding House Reach – was some of his most eclectic work ever, but the Detroit native mostly focuses on delivering familiar goods on Taking Me Back, to great effect.

Featuring White on all instruments, the song – released in tandem with a new trailer for the video game Call of Duty: Vanguard is propelled with relish by a funky, swaggering, hip-hop-informed backbeat that allows the White Stripes alum to have some fun on top. 

If you came for the rifftacular, overdriven blues-rock bliss on which White has made his name, you won’t be disappointed. Likewise with the off-the-wall, pitch-jumping, fretboard gymnast leads that couldn’t come from anyone else’s hands.

White’s got plenty of projects swirling about at all times, but when it all comes down to it, no one can deliver that sharp-as-an-arrow combination of bluesy swagger, classic rock showmanship, technical proficiency, and avant-garde unpredictability quite like he can. (JM)

Mastodon - Sickle and Peace

For the third taste of forthcoming double-album Hushed and Grim, the Atlanta metal vets go all-in on their progressive tendencies. Sickle and Peace features cleaner core tones than we’re used to from Kelliher and co, riding atop a driving rhythmic pattern that shifts between 7/8 and 4/4.

In fact, it takes nearly two minutes for the overdrive channels to kick in, and the sonic contrast is glorious, with some whip-smart harmonized runs and a bonecrusher of a riff. And, as reliable as ever, Brent Hinds’ fuzz-laden solo – laid down over the track’s arpeggio breakdown – is pure perfection.

It fuses the essence of vintage Mastodon epics with the more accessible edge of their latter-day era for one of the most tantalizing tastes of Hushed and Grim so far. (MAB)

Vended – Burn My Misery

Slipknot blood runs through the veins of two members of Des Moines, Iowa up-and-comers Vended, so we weren’t at all surprised when they started delivering killer metal tunes from the word go.

Following up their pulverising debut single Asylum – the band which features sons of Corey Taylor and Shawn Crahan – have issued their sophomore single, Burn My Misery. A groove-metal banger in which Griffin Taylor showcases his formidable pipes over a bedrock of hooky, superbly heavy guitar riffs, the track further establishes Vended as a force to be reckoned with in the metal game.

Of course, given the lineage of vocalist Griffin Taylor and drummer Simon Crahan, Slipknot comparisons were an inevitability since Vended’s formation, but Burn My Misery shows a band hellbent on carving their own path. (SR)

Big Wreck - Bombs Away

Canadian Suhr-slinger Ian Thornley is one of the unsung greats of the guitar world, and Big Wreck’s new single is an able showcase for his heavier side.

That main riff is as combustible as they come, the palm-muting the fuse and the slide the spark, while the rhythmic tweaks in its outro reprise are a masterclass in getting maximum mileage from a handful of notes.

The anthemic chorus is matched only by Thornley’s fierce harmonized alternate-picking runs, which evoke the hail of bullets referenced in the track’s lyrics. A new EP, 7.1, is on the way next month, and on this form, it should be sensational. (MAB)

Upon A Burning Body – Snake Eyes

Texas metalcore stalwarts Upon A Burning Body are back with another riff-heavy, mosh-pit-worthy rager, Snake Eyes. A standalone single, this track sees Danny Leal and co explore thrasher territory than their previous material, and it works a treat.

Despite the connotations of its title, Snake Eyes is a resounding success, with guitarist Ruben Alvarez’s pummeling riffs meshing with the galloping rhythms delivered by drummer Tito Felix to create a seemingly unstoppable musical freight train.

And while the thrash influences are glaring, the band doesn’t hesitate to venture back into their tried-and-tested metalcore arrangements, and this is precisely why the song works so well. It keeps you guessing, but never relents on the energy. (SR)

Anjimile - Stranger

Anjimile recently signed to venerated indie 4AD, and his first release for the label – a beguiling one-off single called Stranger – suggests big things lie ahead for the Texas-born, North Carolina-based singer/songwriter. 

The song’s central acoustic figure is a thing of beauty, and serves as a rock-solid foundation for the song’s lovely baroque-pop arrangement, which flourishes with layers of piano, peppy horns and jubilant backing vocals, while never getting too busy.

Anjimile describes Stranger as “something of a confrontation between my past and present selves in relationship to my trans identity.” The lyrics vividly detail Anjimile’s feelings of both liberation and trepidation in regards to the effects of testosterone on his body and voice. 

Taken with the arrangement, you can’t help but be moved. Stranger will more than suffice for now, but Anjimile is definitely someone to keep your eyes on in 2022. (JM)

Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes – Cupid’s Arrow

After smashing out four high-quality albums over the course of five years, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes would be forgiven for taking their foot off the gas just a little. Such a drop-off in intensity is, as it turns out, wholly unacceptable for the English punk rock band, who have hit yet another home run with their latest album, Sticky.

Typified by Cupid’s Arrow, Carter and co have cranked up the gain, layered on the fuzz and assembled 10 tracks that epitomize their own distinct musicality. The song in question that we’ve singled out, while featuring a notable absence of fretboard fireworks, compromises for its lack of technically challenging guitar bravado with some tight tones, thrash-y chords and an infectious aura.

It’s a non-stop three minutes that floors the accelerator from the off and doesn’t let up until the high-octane finale has reached its conclusion. (MO)

Matt Owen

Matt is a News 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.