10 emerging country guitarists you need to hear

Brothers Osborne's John Osborne: part of the new breed of country players

Brothers Osborne's John Osborne: part of the new breed of country players (Image credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Stagecoach)

Country guitar is steeped in tradition, with a long history of players passing down their tricks and instincts to the next group of chicken-pickers.

James Burton was influenced by Chet Atkins, Brad Paisley was influenced by John Jorgenson, and there are many new country guitarists that have learned from the greats and will one day be influencing others with their guitar prowess.

Here, we've rounded up 10 up-and-coming country guitarists that to follow and learn from for a long time to come.

1. Sol Philcox-Littlefield

Brought to the US from the UK with the help of Brent Mason, Sol Philcox-Littlefield showed up in Nashville as a talented teenage guitarist and has proven himself to be a working member of the Nashville session player community. He can hang with the greats on burning tempo instrumental songs, but can also service the song on hit records like Luke Combs' When It Rains It Pours.

In addition to playing sessions as a guitarist, he runs a small studio and is fluent on most instruments used in country music. He is part of the new generation of musicians that can play, produce, and engineer. You can catch him touring with the incomparable Wheeler Walker Jr.

His chops and humour can be found on Instagram @limopartywithjohncena.

2. Charlie Worsham

Charlie Worsham has been a high achiever since an early age and still has no ceiling in sight. As a child he practised banjo to a high level and kept his grades up in school, going to Berklee for college and Nashville shortly after. He fell into being a utility player for showcases and the band KingBilly, specialising in acoustic guitar and bluegrass instruments.

Nowadays, Charlie is a major-label country artist, touring as an opener for stars like Miranda Lambert and Lee Ann Womack. His two studio albums Rubberband and The Beginning Of Things are among the best music to come out of Nashville in the past five years. His guitar skills are on display in his live shows, and in the One Day Covers on his YouTube channel.

3. John Osborne

The Brothers Osborne have found success on country radio and respect among the musician community in Nashville.

John Osborne’s country guitar playing is a big part of their sound. He has a chicken pickin’ style that pulls from SRV and western swing, bringing some complexity to a commercial genre. At a young age, he and his brother, TJ, were playing in jam sessions their parents hosted on the weekends at their home.

John moved to Nashville, Tennessee in 2000 and graduated from Belmont University in 2005. He refined his guitar chops by working in bands, including playing lead alongside Charlie Worsham in KingBilly.

He and TJ signed a record deal as The Brothers Osborne, and put out a hit single containing the best country outro solo in the past 10 years with Stay A Little Longer. Still early in their career, John’s guitar playing is sure to be heard on radio and in arenas well into the future.

You can read more in our in-depth interview with John, discussing his incredible gear collection, country inspirations and the illusion of perfect tone.

4. Andy Wood

After finding early acclaim as a mandolinist, Andy Wood picked up the guitar at age 18 and began absorbing the technique and instincts of country guitar legends.

His proficiency at up-and-down picking from his bluegrass upbringing lent itself to the speed of country guitar, and also to the style of rock guitar legends. He has a signature Suhr Tele style guitar.

Andy has toured as a sideman for Rascal Flatts, Gary Allan, and other country artists. He is now touring his own music, and has two albums out called Caught Between A Truth And A Lie and A Disconcerting Amalgam.

5. Daniel Donato

Lower Broadway is full of great players, and the lead slot in Don Kelly’s Band at Robert’s Western World never disappoints when it comes to country guitarists. Daniel Donato is an alumnus, along with Brent Mason, Guthrie Trapp, and Johnny Hiland. He specialises in classic chicken pickin' that pulls from jazz, bluegrass, and western swing.

Daniel released an album called Cosmic Country, and has online guitar courses and a DVD/instruction book for anyone interested in learning from him, available from his website.

6. Luke McQueary

Originally from Liberty, Kentucky, and just 17 years old, Luke is an accomplished guitarist making his way in the Nashville music community. Like Brent Mason, he uses a thumb pick exclusively. While certainly a chicken picker, his playing has no shortage of heavy blues and rock influence.

Currently, Luke plays in the Don Kelley Band Wednesday through Saturday at Robert’s Western World on Broadway in Nashville, Tennessee.

7. Matthew Lee

Matthew Lee started playing guitar at age nine and began playing professionally at 15. He received two Bachelor’s Degrees in Music from the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh in Recording Technology and Music Business. He then moved to Chicago to pursue a music career in classical guitar working in a duo that took him on a tour through Europe.

Matthew supplemented his income teaching guitar lessons and playing in jazz ensembles, eventually saving enough money to head to Nashville. His playing has been influenced by Frank Zappa, Junior Brown, Chet Atkins, Danny Gatton and Django Reinhardt.

Matthew recently recorded an instrumental EP available on iTunes called Musical Tattoo. He also started the Nashville Guitar Community YouTube channel, a network for guitar players. You can catch him on Broadway in downtown Nashville.

8. Chuck Ward

Another gifted Tele player emerging on the radar is Chuck Ward. He is currently a touring guitarist in Nashville and plays lead for country artist Craig Morgan.

Originally from Wheatfield, Indiana, Chuck takes after Brent Mason, Jimmy Olander and Vince Gill. His father builds guitars and is a pedal steel player. Chuck picked up the guitar when he was 12 and quickly began playing in country bands with his dad all over the region. After high school he began touring more than 9 months out of the year.

Now in Nashville, Ward keeps a busy touring schedule and can be found @chuckemg1990 on Twitter.

9. Luke Gallagher

On the other side of the world, country music is very much alive, and Luke Gallagher is one of the musicians keeping country cool.

As a working musician, he plays for Australian country artists, and he populates his YouTube channel with the widest range of country guitar content on the internet. His guitar covers of Brad Paisley, Jerry Reed, Vince Gill, and many, many others will send you down an internet wormhole of guitar goodness.

10. Austin Crum

Coming to Nashville from Newport, Tennessee, Austin Crum is a 19-year-old guitar picker with influences including James Mitchell, Roy Nichols, and SRV.

As a self-taught musician, he played in a band with his father and his cousin as a young child. A true blues shredder and country chicken picker, he moved to Nashville and received praise from high places.

Regarding Austin, Vince Gill said, “I’ve seen you on YouTube and you’re a monster; you’re a badass!”, and Brent Mason called him, “the new breed”.

He can be found on Twitter @AustinCrumAEC.