New York, Los Angeles and Nashville have long been home bases to the world's most talented guitarists, but Denver has plenty of top-notch musicians who haven't fled for more coastal climes. To select our city's greatest players, we polled our music writers and considered technical proficiency, style, originality and more. We've rounded up ten of the best guitarists in Denver, appearing here in alphabetical order. Let us know who we missed.
1. Dave Devine (Dave Devine Relay, solo)
Expertly straddling the line between modern jazz and minimalist score, Devine, who has a quartet called the Dave Devine Relay, creates textures and landscapes with his music rather than simple songs. The melodies are there — they’re not even hidden — but there’s so much more going on. Devine is a genuine artist and an exemplary guitar player.
2. Steve Goldberg and Brian Hopp (Cephalic Carnage)
For this grindcore/death-metal band, power is in the sum of the parts, and both Goldberg and Hopp help make the brutal machine tick. Able to play lightning-fast when the music requires, these guys can throw a power-metal widdle in, too. In classic metal style, it’s like a wrestling tag-team dynamic, and it’s magnificent to behold.
3. Luke Gottlieb (Bud Bronson and the Good Timers)
No-frills, classic-rock-inspired music requires a classic rock-esque guitarist — the kind of guys who can reach into the musical memory banks and pull inspiration from the beloved greats: Page, Clapton, Hendrix, Walsh and even Nugent. Gottlieb has that gift, though he also injects plenty of himself into the tunes. Westword's Tom Murphy said, “For these guys, getting ahold of an older relative’s record collection was a beginning point, not a destination.” That sums it up, and Gottlieb is a vital ingredient.
4. Roger Green (The Czars, solo)
Formerly with the Czars, a local alt-rock band that thrilled from 1994 until its 2006 split, Green has landed on his own feet with his slightly avant-garde solo material. Green is about expressing himself with his instrument, and he takes the less-is-more approach rather than that of the ham-fisted chord monster. Every pick of a string, every strum, everything, seems carefully thought out and adds something important to the song.
5. Bibi McGill (Beyonce)
While she's lived in L.A. for a long time, and now Portland, McGill was brought up in Denver. Real name Belinda, she was nicknamed Bibi early on in tribute to B.B. King. She graduated from the University of Colorado with a degree in music arranging before heading west to L.A., and now she's best known as the musical director and guitarist with Beyonce's band the Suga Mamas — so this incredibly talented guitarist has played at the White House, the Super Bowl, and around the world. She's also worked with Pink and Paulina Rubio, and is in demand because of her natural, genre-defying ability and charismatic delivery.
Read on for five more of the best guitarists in Denver.
6. Trent Nelson (Strange Americans)
The Strange Americans play dusty, Americana-infused rock and roll, and Nelson’s style suits the band well. Never overplaying, Nelson provides the perfect blend of riff and twang, helping the band gradually earn a solid reputation with local music fans since forming in 2009. With overt influences like Crazy Horse and the Band, it makes sense when listening to Nelson that he’s been learning from players like Robbie Robertson and Neil Young.
7. Chris “Citrus” Sauthoff (George Clinton, etc.)
Sauthoff now teaches guitar, bass and sitar at Swallow Hill Music, and that’s a genuinely unique opportunity for students, because Citrus has been a pro since 1990. He's toured with George Clinton’s P-Funk, and Clinton knows how to pick his musicians. Citrus even developed a way to string a guitar so that it sounds like a sitar. A supremely talented player, he’s shared a stage with James Brown, the Doobie Brothers, Joss Stone, Kid Rock and many more. And he lives among us.
8. Jeff Suthers (Pale Sun)
We knew Suthers was good thanks to his work with Bright Channel, Orbiteer and Moonspeed, but he’s pulling out some next-level shit with shoegaze/indie rockers Pale Sun. The music is dark but not without hope; there are elements of later-era Depeche Mode in there, but also healthy helpings of dream pop. It’s textured and beautifully constructed, and Suthers plays it expertly.
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9. Scott Uhl (Glass Delirium, Ninety Percent 90s)
It’s with Glass Delirium that Uhl proves just how good he really is, implementing a style that blends classical, jazz and metal, among other things, with progressive alt-rock. Perhaps just as important however, his work with 1990s cover band Ninety Percent 90s shows that he can let loose and have a good time while playing in a variety of styles.
10. Steve Varney (Kid Reverie, Gregory Alan Isakov)
Varney is the voice as well as the six-stringer on Kid Reverie, following his time in the Denver band Glowing House. Lush and emotive, Kid Reverie has a sound that it says falls between Feist and the Black Keys — orchestrally full despite the clear blues influences. Varney’s playing, both with that band and with Boulder-based South African indie-folkster Gregory Alan Isakov, is intricate when necessary and simple elsewhere. It all works.