Bunch Of Fives: Girl From Winter Jargon | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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On Saturday 11th April, you’ll be stood watching Girl From Winter Jargon performing on the NARC stage (at The Green Room) of Stockton Calling. You’ll be stood there captivated by her beautiful voice and finely crafted songs but will also be truly spellbound by her incredible ability on the guitar. Then, after the set has finished you’ll start to wonder who her guitar influences are and it will keep niggling away at you inside until it consumes you and you are unable to enjoy any of the other performances that day. Luckily for you, Rachel (GFWJ non-stage name) has anticipated this all-consuming curiosity and provided you with the insight you will require (but don’t know it yet) with this lovely bunch of fives about her most inspirational guitarists.

I’ve always wanted the opportunity to talk about some of the guitarists who have inspired me the most; I think with your usual ‘top guitarist charts,’ there tends to be a lot of bias toward ‘hairy rock’ genres – and whilst I’ve nothing particularly against hair, (or rock) – I’ve always felt there’s more to being a good guitarist than one’s ability to play a really fast scale! 

Choosing only five guitarists for this feature was really difficult, so I decided to base the list on who I found to be most innovative and influential. I had to (very reluctantly) leave out Blur’s Graham Coxon and Joey Santiago from Pixies, but wanted to give both guitarists a cheeky honourable mention in the foreword anyway. As it happens, the first guitarist on my list is a big fan of both musicians, and also owes rather a lot to the guitar stylings of Joey Santiago. 

Jonny Greenwood (Radiohead)
I simply love everything about his guitar playing; the creativity, the tone, the angularity, and all the mad, wildly inventive effects he uses.  There’s an unpredictability about the way he plays – especially when performing live. I’ve a handful of Radiohead bootlegs from the 90’s era and it’s all the little variations in the live performances which really stand out.  I’m a bit of a shameless fangirl too; a number of years ago I had some modifications done on my Yamaha Pacifica – all of which were based on Jonny Greenwood’s Telecaster. I had a ‘kill switch’ installed, which momentarily mutes the signal, producing a ‘stutter-like’ effect – along with what’s now sold as a ‘Lace Dually Bridge Pickup’ – which Jonny and his guitar technician originally ‘invented’ themselves by wiring two single coil pickups together. 

Standout Guitar Tracks: 

  • Paranoid Android
  • Bangers & Mash
  • Maquiladora (Live at the Astoria)

Anna Calvi
Anna Calvi is a highly flamboyant and passionate performer – someone I think you have to see live to fully appreciate. 

She once sighted Jeff Buckley as the reason she (almost exclusively) plays a Fender Telecaster, and while both artists share undeniable similarities – I personally think Anna Calvi’s skills as a guitarist are on a whole other level. She has a signature guitar technique where she makes ‘harp-like’ sounds through circular, picking motions, best heard on a short instrumental piece called, “Rider to the sea.” Anna is right-handed, but once stated she has more strength in her left hand and has adapted her playing technique – using this so called “weakness” to her advantage  – by ‘sweeping’ more and ‘picking’ less. I think it’s often things like this that show great character and uniqueness in a player, and also proves that it’s possible for musicians to turn their personal limitations into a strength. 

Standout Guitar Tracks: 

  • I’ll be your man (Live Version) 
  • No more words
  • Indies or Paradise 

James Dean Bradfield. (Manic Street Preachers)
What I find endearing about James Dean Bradfield is that he makes no secret of trying to emulate his guitar heroes. His influences include; Johnny Marr, [The Smiths] Andy Gill [Gang of Four] and even Slash from Guns n Roses. I personally think James is at his best when he’s bridging the gap between post-punk and classic rock styles; for me, his most ambitious and outstanding guitar work came out of the ‘Holy Bible’ era, where he had the challenge of writing music to Richey James Edwards’s infamous ‘lyrics’ – which were often more like wordy, unstructured essays. James Dean Bradfield’s earlier vocals contained a lot of notes broken down by syllables; disjointed and stretched to fit.  Similarly, with his guitar parts, there’s a sense of ‘cramming’ angular notes, riffs and solos into very tight spaces. This might sound to some like a description of how music should never be written, but for me, it’s this same approach to songwriting that makes the music interesting. The songs have a sense of darkness, richness and purpose – all of which I find to be very enjoyable. By James’s admission, the guitars and vocals from that era are incredibly difficult to perform live. I twice saw the manics perform the album in it’s entirety, however, and can attest to how gifted a guitarist (and performer) he really is. 

Standout Guitar Tracks:

  • Faster, 
  • Comfort Comes, 
  • This is Yesterday (Live from Cardiff International Arena ’98)

Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell might not seem like an obvious or expected choice for a “top guitarists” list, but I’ve included her with good reason. When I first started to take a real interest in music, I sought to find a female role model who could be held as an example of musical self-sufficiency; someone who could write, arrange, sing and play (simultaneously) to a high standard, and I found all of these things in Joni Mitchell. As a teenager, I was naturally drawn to her earlier folk albums, which I find to be very melodic and pretty with interesting chord structures. She also has quite a distinctive finger-picking style which I tried my best to imitate when I first began to teach myself rudimentary chords on my brother’s acoustic guitar. I don’t think she gets anywhere near enough recognition for just how clever and innovative a guitarist she is. For the longest time, I couldn’t understand why Joni’s songs were so difficult to work out by ear; it’s all down to her unconventional approach to tuning; I read somewhere once that she uses a total of 51 different alternative tunings!!? 

Standout Guitar Tracks: 

  • Ladies of the Canyon
  • The Priest
  • For The Roses

Marissa Paternoster (Screaming Females)
Screaming Females are a band that are best experienced live; they’ve an energy about them that can only come from having continuously gigged together for well over a decade. Marissa Paternoster is traditionally a bit of a shred-head guitarist (evidently a big Smashing Pumpkins fan), but in later years she’s dialled back a lot of those tendencies and seems to be more focused on crafting memorable riffs and hooks. She’s the reason I own a Boss Digital Delay DD6 guitar pedal and I’m very grateful for having been introduced to it because it’s turned out to be a very useful purchase. Marissa ticks a lot of boxes for me as a guitarist, playing intricate notes and riffs whilst singing at the same time. For me, musicians who can do this (efficiently, and to a high standard) are the most exciting and engaging to watch live, because you’re getting to see two different instruments synchronised by the same mind, and played together in real-time. That isn’t something easily replicated in the studio and isn’t remotely the same as hearing two musicians perform the same parts. It’s an aspect of musicianship that has always fascinated me, which is probably why four out of 5 of the guitarists on my list also happen to be singers too. 

Standout Guitar Tracks: 

  • Ripe
  • Red Hand
  • It All Means Nothing

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