When it comes to talking about guitar greats you’re likely to hear the same names getting tossed around. And all too often, it’s only the men that get mentioned in the conversation. In fact, when Rolling Stone assembled their list of the 100 greatest guitarists there were exactly two women on it (Bonnie Raitt and Joni Mitchell). But there are lots of chicks with serious guitar licks. And to me nothing sounds better (and is sexier) than a woman’s voice as she shreds on her guitar. I don’t know why, but a woman singing over noisy guitar rock hits me like no other music can. Maybe it has something to do with the balance of the soft hypnotic tone of a woman’s voice over the heaviness of driving guitar riffs.
Whatever it is, the Brooklyn-based noise pop group Beverly has it. And lead guitarist and vocalist Drew Citron is one of the next generation of great female guitarists. Her vocals and fuzzed-out guitar riffs make for some of the coolest songs I’ve heard in a while. Their 2014 debut album Careers – released on Kanine Records – features a collection of super-catchy tunes like “Honey Do” or “All the Things” that manage to perfectly combine the elements of heavy guitar pop-rock and the soft melodic timbre of the female voice.
There are extremely pretty moments of pop on Careers for sure (see the two aforementioned examples), but to me, some of the best moments occur on the juxtaposition of songs like “Yale’s Life” a slow-burner where the combination of Citron’s vocals and the washed-out texture of the music is at its most poignant, and “Ambular,” an angular twitchy nervous surf-rock style jam, which illustrate the extremes of what Beverly can do.
Drew Citron took a few minutes out of her busy schedule to email us a list of her top five female guitarists. Check out these five chicks with serious guitar licks. (And then check out Beverly at The Millworks in Harrisburg on May 29 at 10 p.m.)
1.) Nicole Yun (of Eternal Summers)
Eternal Summers is a Virginia indie-pop trio with beautiful jangly guitar parts from Nicole Yun. “Nicole is a friend of mine,” says Citron. “And the only person I know who can wail on a mathy lead line and simultaneously sing like an angel.”
Like what you hear? Check out Eternal Summers when they hit The Millworks on June 6.
2) Gemma Thompson (of Savages)
“I saw Savages for the first time at Field Day in London a few years ago. I love Gemma’s artful use of reverb crashes and accents, it’s really powerful to watch,” says Citron.
3) Kelley Deal (of The Breeders, The Amps, The Kelley Deal 6000)
No list of female guitar player would be complete without mentioning the Deal sisters. Apparently, when Kelley joined The Breeders, Kim wanted her as the drummer but Kelley insisted on playing lead guitar despite not knowing much guitar. She picked it up pretty quick. Then she proceed to play on “Cannonball,” one of the greatest songs of the ’90s.
4) Kim Deal (of The Breeders, The Amps, formerly The Pixies)
A legend of ’90s indie rock. The Pixies. The Breeders. The Amps. Deal held down the low end for the Pixies for years, but is also an extremely accomplished guitar player. She continues rocking out with The Breeders today.
5) Joni Mitchell
A true legend of songwriting whose lyrics are as poetic as Bob Dylan’s and whose guitar playing is much better. “I had the opportunity to talk with Joni Mitchell for about 20 minutes once,” says Citron. “And during that span of time she managed to tell me ‘no one understands my chords.’ It’s true, you can’t notate them accurately because they’re all totally crazy open tunings. She’s just doing whatever it takes to make the most interesting and evocative melody happen. I like the idea that you don’t have to go to jazz conservatory to be creative.”
Who are some of your favorite guitar goddesses?