Given that Nancy Wilson is responsible for some of the greatest guitar moments in rock history, it was welcome news when the Heart legend recently teamed up with Epiphone for her first signature guitar with the brand – the Nancy Wilson Fanatic.
The new electric guitar comes on the heels of her 2013 Gibson model, the Nighthawk, and features the same sleek body shape and elegant Fireburst Gloss finish, only with a much more affordable price tag of just $529.
Other features include a mahogany body and a figured maple veneer top, a rounded “C” profile mahogany neck, an ebony fretboard and a commemorative “Fanatic” truss-rod cover.
Pickups, meanwhile, are ProBucker humbuckers, controlled by a five-way pickup selector switch and master volume and tone knobs.
You can learn more about the Epiphone Nancy Wilson Fanatic here.
Wilson has called the Fanatic a “solid citizen amongst the great rock guitar screamers,” and we could say the same about Nancy herself.
With that in mind, we put together a top ten list of some of Wilson’s greatest guitar moments with Heart. And to be sure – she’s far from done yet, having just announced the release of her first-ever solo album, You and Me, due out May 7.
Until then, here’s a look at some of Wilson’s finest work.
1. Crazy on You (Dreamboat Annie, 1975)
As much as the monster descending electric guitar riff at the center of Crazy on You is its calling card, Wilson’s 45-second unaccompanied acoustic intro remains the guitar part that most budding six-stringers aim to master. And it ain’t easy. As Wilson once told Guitar World, “Because that first part was a solo piece, I had to get the whole thing down in one take. I didn’t want to do a punch-in because it would have been obvious. So by the time I got it right all the way through I had blisters all over my fingers. It felt like they were going to fall off!”
2. Dreamboat Annie (Fantasy Child) (Dreamboat Annie, 1975)
Heart built their reputation primarily as a hard rock outfit in the early days, but their acoustic folk influences are everywhere in their catalog. The earliest instance is this track, the second song on their debut, which sees Wilson providing a rolling, fingerstyle accompaniment to her sister Ann’s vocal. The brief, 1:10-minute track provides a nice interlude between two of the album’s heaviest hitters, Magic Man and Crazy on You.
3. Devil Delight (Magazine, 1977)
Save for leadoff track Heartless, Heart’s second effort, Magazine, is something of the forgotten link between Dreamboat Annie and Little Queen, in particular due to its botched release, initially in unfinished form. But there’s plenty of gold to be found on the record, in particular on the grinding Devil Delight, which features one of Wilson’s heaviest riffs – which comes off as something like a slower, heavier, Mississippi Queen – and that is offset by both prettier, lighter passages and also denser harmonized guitar licks.
4. Barracuda (Little Queen, 1977)
The leadoff riff to Barracuda is a prime example of how one note can say so much. The open E-gallop that kicks off the song manages to perfectly encapsulate and translate the venom baked into Ann Wilson’s lyrics – directed at the band’s then label, Mushroom, which had insinuated a romantic relationship between the sisters as a publicity stunt. The harmonics that punctuate the lick, meanwhile, serve as almost a primal scream of rage. A perfect pairing of six-string and sentiment if ever there was one.
5. Little Queen (Little Queen, 1977)
Wilson is at her funkiest on the title track to Heart’s third album, linking together a series of riffs that are all distinct but somehow flow easily into one another. And the ascending one that introduces the chorus is a particular killer. One of Heart’s best and most unique cuts.
6. Mistral Wind (Dog & Butterfly, 1978)
The Dog & Butterfly album-closer is a Wilson tour de force, opening softly with her evocative acoustic playing before exploding into an electric epic full of heavy riffing. Across its six-minute-plus runtime it occasionally approaches Sabbath territory, but more than anything comes off like a more pastoral version of Kashmir – right down to the exotic note choices and heavily-phased drums.
7. Bébé le Strange (Bébé Le Strange, 1980)
Little Queen was probably Wilson’s funkiest work…until Bébé Le Strange. The opening riff is one of her best – tight, coiled and aggressive, but with plenty of swagger. The way the band alternates these aggressive passages with sections that break out into an all-out rave up makes it one of Heart’s – and Wilson’s – most exciting tunes.
8. Down On Me (Bébé Le Strange, 1980)
Wilson doesn’t get straight-up bluesy too often in the Heart catalog, but after hearing Down On Me you’d wish she would more often. The tune exhibits her skill as an expert blues-rock player, while also retaining her own unique identity with lighter passages and tasteful arpeggiated chord work.
9. Stairway to Heaven (Live at Kennedy Center Honors, 2012)
This cover, from the Kennedy Center Honors, cements what we already knew – that there’s no guitarist, or band, more primed to take on the Zeppelin behemoth than Wilson and Heart. So good that it brought Robert Plant to tears – why should you be any different?
10. Beautiful Broken (Beautiful Broken, 2016)
The title track from Heart’s most recent studio album demonstrates that Wilson can still rip out a rockin’ riff with ease. In fact, the crunchy, thick churn of Beautiful Broken recalls nothing so much as ‘90s-era Metallica, which made it the perfect platform for James Hetfield to jump onboard as a guest vocalist. “It had that aggression and that rock thing,” Wilson told Rolling Stone about the song. “And I think [James] brought it more into focus.”