Some of the acoustic guitar (opens in new tab) players in this rundown are the hardest working players we know – touring, creating, striving to maintain their craft. It's a difficult journey to maintain and especially so in this year. Which makes their achievements all the more impressive.
Here are the ten best acoustic guitarists of 2020, as voted by you.
1. Jon Gomm
Just a cursory listen to Jon Gomm (opens in new tab)'s new album The Faintest Idea is a reminder of the incredible level of detail and trailblazing spirit he brings to percussive fingerstyle (opens in new tab)guitar playing.
Now signed to Kscope records after years as an independent artist, Gomm's ability to create an intimate and emotional performance regardless always shines through. An inspirational musician.
2. Mike Dawes
The British virtuoso released new music in 2020 in the shape of the short and very sweet William Shatner's Pants, but also gave us other highlights including the live release Shows and Distancing: Live in the USA, his wonderful tribute to Eddie Van Halen (opens in new tab) that you can see below – and the launch of the new nattily titled Mike Dawes Has A Podcast.
We can't wait to hear what's next for Mike in 2021.
3. Christie Lenée
We're absolutely delighted to see the support Christie Lenée received in the poll this year – as the winner of our Acoustic Guitarist Of The Year in 2019 (opens in new tab), MusicRadar readers may have already been familiar with her incredible fingerstyle playing and uplifting songwriting. Now hopefully even more people will be.
Stay updated on Christie's livestreams, upcoming gigs and released at christielenee.com (opens in new tab)
4. Maneli Jamal
Maneli released two new albums this year with Soul Odyssey and Tranquil Strings that have showcased an emotive instrumentalist.
It's great to see a player who integrates classical guitar as well as steel-string but to really understand Maneli's depth of influences as a player, it's worth watching his documentary below. Born to Iranian parents in exile in Europe, his upbringing inspires his East-meets-West musical themes.
5. Molly Tuttle
We're not surprised to see one of the world's greatest contemporary bluegrass players receiving your support, and her 2020 album, …but I'd rather be with you, saw a remarkable ability to fuse her roots influences to Tuttleize songs she grew up with by bands including Rancid, The National and The Grateful Dead.
6. Karlijn Langendijk
Another Acoustic Guitarist Of The Year (opens in new tab) alumni; Karlijn was a finalist in our 2018 competition. She's gone on to consistently showcase her wonderful gift for atmospheric arrangements. The stunning Golden Hour above is a choice example.
She'd already proved equally adept as part of a duo dynamic with Ladislav Pazdera for last year's Meraki (opens in new tab) and we eagerly await what the future holds for one of the greatest young acoustic players in the world right now
7. Alexandr Misko
Yep, another GOTY winner (opens in new tab) – Alexandr was in the final alongside Karlijn and dazzled us with his fingerstyle percussive skills. This year saw the Russian virtuoso apply his talents to some unexpected Eminem and MC Hammer covers (opens in new tab) to great effect, but as he proves above with a looper pedal (opens in new tab), his own incredible innovative compositions are where his reputation is founded.
8. Sturgill Simpson
This year saw the US firebrand return to his acoustic bluegrass roots after 2019's electric Sound & Fury, and he brought his back catalogue with him to the Butcher Shoppe studio in Nashville for Cuttin' Grass Vol 1's often one-take interpretations with a stellar band.
Simpson is such a talent as a vocalist and songwriter it's sometimes easy to overlook what a mean picker he is – but the affirmation is all here.
9. Laura Marling
A startlingly mature musical talent even as a teenager, Marling's star continues to ascend at the age of 30. The parallels with Joni Mitchell stand, and the lyricism makes Marling's focussed and driving playing easy to take for granted.
10. John Smith
No new album this year but John Smith (opens in new tab) did track a record at Real World Studios recently. If 2019's Burden Of The Road is the sign of things to come, it's going to be special. But then his fans already know what this man is capable of.
A truly gifted acoustic folk and electric guitar player, the greater personal intimacy of Smith's songs in recent years is taking his music to a new level.