As I write this, I am one day away from my 20th guitar-playin' anniversary. I mention this not for conceited reasons, but because it got me thinking that there are quite a few outstanding guitarists in our city.
They are the very reason kids are currently sitting in their bedrooms trying to learn scales, chords and solos—the very reason we all aspire to practice harder and play better. And though I might usually be inclined to break these musicians' hands in an effort to make myself feel better, I've chosen instead to highlight a few local guitarists who make me want to go home and scream, "You're a loser!" at my reflection.
Cover bands are fun and all, but it’s hard to put them in the same league as musicians who produce original material. For the guitarist of Chango, however, the rules go out the window. Lopez is one of our truly underrated instrumentalists—a man who takes other people’s music and adds an almost ridiculous level of skill in both the rhythm and solo departments. Chango told me that the band’s very existence is due to members not having enough time to write originals; but as long as Lopez is up there playing his heart out, the band’s cover songs go beyond musical tracing and into the realm of awe-inspiring.
In performing the self-described swingabilly genre, this local titan taps into so many great American music styles it’s almost scary. Within a single set you’ll likely hear anything from an old cowboy tune to an artfully reworked Bob Dylan favorite. To watch Wily Jim work the fretboard is truly to be amazed—it’s all the more exciting once you realize he manages to sing over insanely complex finger picking. It’s not uncommon for a crowd to gather during a Wily Jim busking performance, but now that he’s got a regular thing going at La Posada, you know where to go should you wish to be impressed.
We all know and love Mr. Baker as the former owner of Corazón, the education director at The Candyman’s Rock School and a member of cover acts Love Gun and Moby Dick. But for those of us who have actually taken the time to watch what this dude does with a guitar, he has a different name—hero. Oh, I’m sure he’s reading this right now and blushing, but I can recall a particularly excellent Gluey Brothers performance inside the Lamy train station during which a friend and I turned to each other in disbelief of Baker’s guitar prowess. It was one of those moments where you realize that while you thought you were producing great guitar stuff, there was some dude out there effortlessly making you seem foolish. Now then, when’s the next Deus Crepitus show!?
About a million and a half years ago, a metal band called Fallen Hope formed in Santa Fe and performed their first show at Warehouse 21. We were all floored. Here were some of the youngest musicians hanging around the teen arts center, and they blew everyone else out of the water. And though all of the band’s members deserve immense credit for their talent and dedication, there was no denying that lead guitarist Jacy Oliver drove the band with his jaw-dropping technical skills. His fingers became an absolute blur of speed and precision…the applause was uproarious. Eventually the band changed their name to Caso Vita, and shows have become rare. Thus, should you see the name on a flyer somewhere, make sure you are at that show.
The decision to check out proggy rock/jazz/beyond act Things That Are Heard on the bandstand a few summers back was rewarded with the knowledge that Ross Hamlin is one of Santa Fe’s unsung guitar gods. We knew he was a talented guitarist to begin with, but this was one of those defining moments where we see that this unassuming, friendly guy is actually a bazonkers guitarist. Hamlin plays with funk/disco band The Sticky these days, and he brings his incredible, multi-faceted skill along for the ride. Oh, and homeboy totally offers guitar lessons, so if you’ve ever wanted to get in the game, this might be the perfect way to do so.