Singer-guitarist Lindsey Buckingham lamented on a solo album two years ago that life outside of Fleetwood Mac was a “so-called vision, always deferred.” Evidently in the mood for deference no more, Mr. Buckingham this week released another solo set, “Gift of Screws,” showing off his enviable dexterity as a guitar finger-picker. We await an edition of Guitar Hero that honors Mr. Buckingham, along with some other great players who don’t fit the popular electric-shredder archetype.
1. James Burton — Well-known to graying guitar-heads as the “Telecaster King,” the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member (in the sideman category — he backed Rick Nelson, Dale Hawkins, Elvis Presley and many others) isn’t the household name he should be. See his chicken-pickin’ solo on Gram Parsons’ “Ooh Las Vegas.” Clapton? No — Burton is god.
2. Leo Kottke — For 40 years, Mr. Kottke has assimilated jazz, blues and folk like no other guitarist. That, and his unusual setup (finger-picking or bottlenecking an open-tuned 12-string acoustic guitar) has made for an unusually explosive sound.
3. Clarence White — A bluegrass phenom as a young man, Mr. White would go on to help Chris Hillman transform the Byrds into alt-country pioneers. His singular style of pitch-bending inspired fellow Byrds alum Gene Parsons to invent a guitar mechanism called a B-Bender, which enables players to mimic on six-string the sound of a pedal-steel guitar.
4. Peter Green — One of Mr. Buckingham’s predecessors in Fleetwood Mac, Mr. Green fashioned a gritty British chamber blues that was infinitely less commercially successful than the band’s mid-‘70s reboot. Yet listen to the ferocious riff of “Oh Well.” We defy you to tell us it was less potent.
5. Jonathan Richman — In the Modern Lovers and then as a solo artist, Mr. Richman has rightfully been lauded as one of the progenitors of punk and alternative rock. Less celebrated are his considerable, if understated, playing chops, which display an incisive sense of melody and genre-quoting versatility.