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From reimagined blues classics to unlikely rap crossovers: here are this week's essential guitar tracks

Jade Puget of AFI performs in support of the band's " The Missing Man" release at Ace of Spades on December 9, 2018 in Sacramento, California.
(Image credit: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

Here at Guitar World, Thursday’s our favorite day of the week. No, not because it’s so close to the weekend – well, maybe – but because we get to wax lyrical on the six-string soundbites from the past seven days that have most piqued our interest.

This week, we’ve got a brand-new Black Keys cover of a John Lee Hooker classic, a hot new slide-heavy take from Brian May Guitars-repping wunderkind Arielle, an ‘80s-inspired cut from hardcore punk revivalists AFI and a Covid-inspired Mick Jagger/Dave Grohl collaboration, to name a mere few.

So switch off, unwind, and allow us to feed your mind with the latest and greatest tracks from the ever-expanding guitar sphere.

The Black Keys - Crawling Kingsnake

Having conquered arenas, pushed the boundaries of their sound in entirely unexpected directions and branched out on their own with solo albums and production work, Akron, Ohio’s finest blues-rock duo have come full circle on their new album, Delta Kream

Featuring 11 covers of blues standards from the likes of R. L. Burnside, Ranie Burnette, Junior Kimbrough, Big Joe Williams and more, the album promises to take the duo back to the bare-bones, fuzz-blasted-guitar-and-drums sound of their early work.

In that vein, the album’s first single, a loose and limber take on John Lee Hooker's Crawling King Snake, is a veritable bounty of guitar greatness. 

Having as much fun as it sounds like he’s had on tape in years, Dan Auerbach keeps it simple vocal-wise, mostly letting his guitar do the talking. With slide acrobatics galore, riffing straight from the swamps and fire-and-brimstone soloing – wedded perfectly to Patrick Carney’s strutting groove – this hypnotic jam will serve to remind skeptics of the air-tight chemistry and vision that made this duo one of the 2010s biggest breakthrough rock acts. (JM)

AFI - Dulcería

Davey Havok, Jade Puget and co teamed up with The Smashing Pumpkins’s mastermind Billy Corgan for this ’80s, new wave-inspired single, the latest track to be released from forthcoming album, Bodies.

Puget deploys some tasty clean tremolo’d lines (and we’re talking both whammy bar and amplitude modulation here) on Dulcería, while waves of synths recall the Pumpkins’ recent Cyr effort.

“Billy and I have a great creative connection when we’re writing together,” says Puget. “It was inspiring to work with such a talented and legendary songwriter and Dulcería is a testament to that.” (MAB)

 Julian Lage – Boo’s Blues 

Taken from his upcoming album Squint, released on June 11, and following on from the recently released Saint Rose, Boo’s Blues is quite simply Julian Lage at his best, with his undisputed grasp on improvisation and masterful art of fingerboard navigation on show in full force.

In a track that largely shies away from playing single-note exchanges – barring a handful of flawless melodic runs – Boo’s Blues boasts a bounty of double-stop slides and a cascade of string-combining riffs, with subtle nuances each time the hook comes around courtesy of Lage’s exploratory and inquisitive approach to melody development.

It’s a Lage track, therefore it’s a tour up and down the fretboard that leaves no stone unturned, no fret unplayed and no listener disappointed. Strap in for the ride and let this jazz extraordinaire in his prime take you on a journey to all four corners of the fingerboard and back – you won’t regret it. (MO)

Light The Torch – Wilting In The Light

The first Light The Torch material since 2018’s Revival, Wilting In The Light comes ahead of the band’s sophomore full length, You Will Be the Death of Me. It sees Howard Jones and co engage in the same super-melodic, but equally-heavy metal that encapsulated their first album, though this time with Whitechapel drummer Alex Rudinger behind the kit.

“The album was a welcome distraction, and we dumped every emotion we had into YWBTDOM,” says vocalist Howard Jones. “Everything we went through individually and together with this album drew Fran, Ryan, and I together. I couldn't be more proud of this album knowing I made it with my family.” (SR)

Lucy Dacus – Hot & Heavy 

This week, the welcome news came that Lucy Dacus would soon return with Home Video, her third album and the follow-up to 2018’s devastatingly brilliant Historian.  

Filled to the brim with nostalgia, yearning, anxiety and a touch of melancholy, Hot & Heavy – the album’s second single – is a lyrical masterclass that dazzles with crackling imagery. 

It’s a lot to unpack, and Dacus’s longtime musical partners-in-crime – Jacob Blizard, Collin Pastore and Jake Finch – give the song everything it needs to breathe, unfurl and build itself up. 

Hot & Heavy is layered enough that you may not even notice Blizard’s scene-coloring six-string embellishments – as rich and multi-faceted as Dacus’s narrative – until your second or perhaps even third spin.

Dacus told us in 2018 that, with Blizard and Pastore, she had “built a vocabulary over time that we didn’t even know we were building,” and that unspoken but profound musical chemistry shines brightly on Hot & Heavy. (JM)

Red Fang - Arrows

Rejoice, for the Portland riff merchants have returned for 2021 – although new album Arrows was actually recorded way back in December 2019 – and this new single is a typically punishing onslaught of fuzz and distortion.

But while the track’s driving stoner riffage is Fang-tastic (sorry – no, really) as always, it’s the metal-tinged outro that cuts as sharp as the katana the band wield throughout the most excellent music video. (MAB)

 Arielle – Inside & Outside 

We’re mere weeks away from Arielle’s hugely anticipated follow-up offering Analog Girl In A Digital World, and the Austin-based singer-songwriter has once again teased what’s in store with the release of new ‘70s-inspired single, Inside & Outside.

Despite the excitement surrounding the quirky Brian May Signature model, it must be remembered that it is merely a tool with which the guitar phenom executes her out-of-this-world guitar work. Ever the sculptor when it comes to lead line construction, the opening exchanges of Arielle’s new track pairs smooth slides with oversized acoustic strums, before the final act delivers a series of delay-soaked slide stabs and rapid-fire scale licks.

If, for whatever reason, you need a friendly reminder that Arielle is indeed one of the most tasteful players around today, the Fleetwood Mac-flavored Inside & Outside serves as a whistle-stop tour through her ever-expanding, guitar-soaked sonic universe – one that will have you counting down the weeks for May 7 when that album is finally released. (MO)

Mick Jagger – Eazy Sleazy (feat. Dave Grohl)

Many artists have penned tunes pertaining to the Covid-19 pandemic, and this week Rolling Stones leader Mick Jagger added his into the mix. Together with Dave Grohl, the pair reference “TikTok”, “Zoom calls”, and “virtual premieres” over a quintessentially classic-rock arrangement of distorted guitars, pummeling rhythms and earworm hooks.

According to Grohl – who handled guitar, drums and bass duties on the track – it was “beyond a dream come true” to join Jagger on Eazy Sleazy. “It’s hard to put into words what recording this song with Sir Mick Jagger means to me,” he wrote in a Twitter post. “And it’s the song of the summer, without a doubt!” (SR)

DMX - X Moves (Ft. Bootsy Collins, Steve Howe & Ian Paice)

The loss of Earl Simmons – known as DMX – to a heart attack last week was a devastating one for music. One of hip-hop’s most singular, charismatic MCs, Simmons could take whatever track was thrown his way and steal the show, though never in a self-serving way – it was just near-impossible to take your eyes and ears off of him.

His death gives the triumphant, nimble X Moves, a newly-released collaboration pairing Simmons with a dream-team power trio – funk master Bootsy Collins on bass, Yes’s Steve Howe on guitar and Deep Purple’s Ian Paice on drums – a bittersweet edge. 

Simmons (with some help from Collins, who offers up a typically cosmic verse of his own) dances over Paice’s funky and, of course, thunderous rhythm and Howe’s tightly coiled riffing, with characteristic lyrical jabs and sleights of hand. Though playing for the song throughout, Howe matches Simmons’ explosive delivery with some high-arching leads of his own – always in just the right places.

What a wonder it would have been to see this unlikely quartet tear the roof off with this tune live… (JM)

Silverstein - Bankrupt

Silverstein were on the verge of setting out on a 20th anniversary tour when Covid hit. Instead, the post-hardcore heroes used that time to write and record new material, including this rager of a single.

Bankrupt displays all the hallmarks of a band who, even two decades in, are still updating and refining their sound. Josh Bradford and Paul Marc Rousseau deploy a colossal slow-bend juggernaut of a main riff here, while the metalcore-inspired production touches add a vital edge. (MAB)

Venues – Shifting Colors

German five-piece Venues have the perfect cocktail of modern metal elements: destructive breakdowns, pounding guitar riffs and endlessly catchy vocal hooks courtesy of clean vocalist Daniela 'Lela' Gruber. And they showcase it with full force on new single Shifting Colors.

The Evanescence-style single-note piano intro might have you fooled as to where the track will take you, but the band is on hand within a few seconds to remind you exactly who you’re listening to.

Throughout, the group weave almost-pop-style vocal melodies into drop-tuned heavy metal riffage – helped by unclean vocalist Robin Baumann – constructing a track that’s sure to get the pit spinning and the crowds screaming when it’s taken to the stage. (SR)

girl in red – you stupid bitch 

Weeks after she released the lead single from her upcoming debut album, girl in red has returned with new track you stupid bitch – a certified high-octane indie-rock head banger that will force itself onto the playlists of guitar fanatics around the world.

No tentative steps are taken by girl in red – aka Marie Ulven – in her latest outing, which throws listeners in at the deep end via a riotous, guitar-heavy opener. While gain-infused power chords descend down the fingerboard, fuzz-drenched lead lines and vocal hooks join forces with a wall-shaking bass and drum machine to form an impervious wall of ridiculously tasty, unrelenting rock sound.

If girl in red isn’t currently on your radar, she most definitely should be, and You Stupid Bitch is merely a taste of what this guitar-slinging alt-pop star has in store for us when if i could make it go quiet is released on April 30. (MO)