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Since making his major-label debut in 1978 with Down In Tennessee, guitar virtuoso Steve Wariner has established himself as one of the most lyrical and expressive storytellers to have ever picked up a six-string.
"To me, that's what a great musician is all about," Wariner explains. "Take me on a journey. On a lot of my favorite albums, the guitar drives the narrative, going through the twists and turns, the highs and the lows, the soft and quiet parts. Great guitar players can be the best storytellers around."
Wariner has made all kinds of records over the years, alternating between vocal and instrumental releases, mixing up genres including classical, bluegrass, western swing, rock, pop and jazz. "I love a lot of different types of music, so I try to explore my tastes as genuinely as I can," he says. "Plus, I don't like repeating myself. You’d get bored really fast if you heard somebody doing the same thing over and over. It’s like reading the same chapter in a book too many times."
Wariner's mastery of the guitar has won him just about every award there is (including three Grammys for Best Country Instrumental Performance), along with perhaps that rarest distinction when Chet Atkins personally named him a Certified Guitar Player (CGP), an honor he shares with Jerry Reed, Tommy Emmanuel and John Knowles.
"The thing about those guys and so many other players I love is, you don't hear the technique," Wariner says. "When music gets technical and mechanical, I get lost. I want to hear heart. Keep it simple and make sure the feeling doesn’t get lost. I guess you can just call it ‘soul.’ And you can have soul with one note. That’s Eric Clapton all day long – or BB King. They do that thing I always come back to: They take you somewhere.”
On the following pages, Wariner runs down his picks for 10 Essential Guitar Albums, listed alphabetically by artist.