BEST OF 2021: The Best Acoustic Guitarist pits some of the world’s finest players against each other, representing a list of some of the most astonishing pickers and acoustic innovators from across the globe.
This year’s list rounds-up established greats and exciting newcomers from the USA, Russia, UK and, of course, one long-standing Australian acoustic behemoth…
1. Winner, Best Acoustic Guitarist 2021: Tommy Emmanuel
The Australian titan of acoustic guitar takes your top spot for 2021. He didn’t feature in last year’s list, yet has roared back to claim the crown. This year’s been relatively quiet for Emmanuel, in terms of releases, but he’s been touring and recently treated fans to a new EP recorded with UK guitarist Richard Smith.
2. Mike Dawes
The British acoustic guitarist and YouTube icon has been busy launching a podcast (the excellently titled Mike Dawes Has A Podcast) in 2021. He also put out a killer collaborative single with your number one, Emmanuel, who appears on Dawes’ jaw-dropping instrumental cover of Somebody That I Used To Know.
3. Daniele Mammarella
The Italian fingerstyle guitarist was one of the finalists in Guitar World’s Acoustic Guitarist Of The Year competition in 2020. In 2021, he followed it up by releasing his spell-binding new album Moonshine.
4. Jon Gomm
Our 2020 number one hasn’t gone anywhere. We’ve not had a new album this year (2020’s The Faintest Idea will have to hold you for now) but the UK virtuoso and percussive innovator celebrated the 10th anniversary of his breakthrough track Passionflower in 2021.
5. Andy McKee
The original YouTube guitar crush put out his first new collection in almost 10 years in 2021, in the form of Symbol. A six-track EP of covers it included McKee’s reworking of Prince’s Purple Rain, as well as his first electric recording, a take on The Rocky IV soundtrack medley, featuring its composer Vince DiCola!
6. Molly Tuttle
The bluegrass sensation has been busy touring and teaching in 2021, sharing some of the technique behind her astonishing picking in her column for our sister title, Guitar World. She also recently dropped a new single She’ll Change – an exciting taste of things to come in 2022.
7. Yasmin Williams
The US player’s second album Urban Driftwood, released earlier this year, takes a ‘knock you down with a feather’ approach to acoustic playing. Her glassy, buoyant and innovative compositions have created a meditative escapism for listeners caught in another tumultuous year.
8. Alexandr Misko
Our 2018 Acoustic Guitarist Of The Year winner Alexandr Misko put out Take Your Time this year, an album of invivgorating collaborations with bassist Dmitry Toporov. He’s also been plugging away releasing some incredible acoustic covers of everything from Bomfunk MCs’ Freestyler (opens in new tab) to Rammstein (opens in new tab) and Toto (opens in new tab).
9. Marcin Patrzalek
The 21-year-old Polish fingerstyle guitarist featured on America’s Got Talent I n 2019, but caught the attention of some major names this year with a cover of Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir. Tom Morello, Vernon Reid and Paul Stanley were all left open-mouthed at his robust take on the tune, which smartly borrowed the natural reverb of a car park.
10. Sturgill Simpson
Simpson released two albums of blazing bluegrass picking in the form of the Cuttin’ Grass records at the tail end of 2020. Since then, invigorated by those sessions, he’s put together a stellar new Western-style concept record, The Ballad Of Doom And Juanita, which smartly forges Kentucky mythology into heart-wrenching story songs.