In this age of phat beats, canned samples, and Pro Tools madness, the slide guitar doesn’t get as much attention as it used to – which makes sense, given that the instrument’s slippery grit represents, in the right hands, the antithesis of slick Top 40 perfection. These 15 songs aren’t intended to serve as an in-depth primer for the glory of the slide – or even the tip of the iceberg – but they make for a perfectly sliderrific mix disc. Whip out those bottlenecks and slide away!
"When I Need You," Michael Bloomfield (Blues, Gospel and Ragtime Guitar Instrumentals)
Leo Sayer, Perry Como, and Celine Dion have covered this mushy classic by Albert Hammond and Carole Bayer Sager, but Bloomfield’s instrumental uncovers the knife edge buried inside the song’s fleshy pink folds.
"Games People Play," Georgia
the Land of Salvation and Sin)
The original recording – by songwriter Joe South, also responsible for "Hush" – was a hit, but it sounds positively quaint next to this righteous, rip-roaring rave-up of a cover. Rick Richards’ overdriven slide is a thing of monstrous beauty.
Man in the Bathtub," Little
Feat (Waiting for Columbus)
Who needs a bottleneck when you can just jam a socket wrench over your finger and call it even? Here’s a vintage slice of swampy slide from one of the early rock masters, Lowell George of Little Feat. Rest in peace, Lowell.
Girl," Chris Whitley (Living
With the Law)
Whitley went on to record more adventurous and authentic albums after his debut, but in 1991, "Poison Girl" brought a much-needed coating of dust to rock radio. Sadly, he passed away last year, but he left behind a stunning body of work.
"Available Space," Ry Cooder (Ry
A lovely acoustic instrumental from Cooder, who hints here at the incredible thirst for adventure that would inform future recordings.
"Milk Cow Calf Blues," John Hammond (The
Best of John Hammond)
You can’t talk about the slide guitar without mentioning John Hammond – his long (and, sadly, mostly below the radar) recording career serves as a master class for anyone who’s ever wanted to pick up a slide.
Called Love," Bonnie Raitt
(Nick of Time)
Sure, the production is a little glossy and bright, but Raitt is a ferociously talented slide guitarist – and even here, at the beginning of her descent into a long adult contemporary snooze, she offers a flash of what makes her great.
Blues," The Allman Brothers
Band (At Fillmore East)
Duane Allman is recognized as one of the greatest slide guitarists who ever lived – if not the greatest – but unlike some of the musicians on this list, the slide was only one element of his repertoire. The Fillmore East performance (regretfully unavailable on YouTube) is one of the most scorching examples of the toll his tragic death took on music.
Grace," Rod Stewart (Every
Picture Tells a Story)
If you grew up with Rod’s schlocky ‘80s work, forget everything you know – early in his career, he was a soul vocalist with an incredible gift for interpretation. Sure, it’s tough to screw up a song as bulletproof as "Amazing Grace," but that doesn’t make this version any less beautiful.
Expectations," The Rolling
Stones (Beggars Banquet)
The late ‘60s saw a number of rock artists adopting the slide, among them the Rolling Stones, whose work during the period drew heavily on the bottleneck stylings of their blues heroes. This cut is a particularly beautiful example.
"Terraplane Blues," Robert Johnson (The
It’s Robert Johnson. Is any explanation really necessary? This song was chosen because, at just over three minutes, it’s the longest track on The Complete Recordings – sometimes brevity is also the soul of kicking ass.
"Bus Driver," Muddy Waters (Hard
Muddy’s trademark style is all over this slide-dominated cut from 1977’s classic Hard Again – recently reissued by Sony’s Legacy imprint, so hop on the bus already.
Derek & the Dominos (Layla & Other
Assorted Love Songs)
Perhaps the most iconic slide work in all of rock & roll is found in this classic Clapton song, which was written – as you no doubt already know – as an anguished paean to the wife of Clapton’s best friend. It’s been played to death, but pretend you’re hearing it for the first time, and marvel at the guitar interplay.
Ride," Foghat (Fool
for the City)
Speaking of overplayed, here’s another hoary old AOR chestnut we’ve all heard more times than we can count – pretty much any time a sitcom character does something supposedly badass, audiences are guaranteed to be treated to either a snippet of "Slow Ride," "Born to Be Wild," or "Bad to the Bone." Still, a little bombast never hurt anyone.
Sweet Lord," George Harrison
(All Things Must Pass)
Yes, the Quiet Beatle was sued for inadvertent plagiarism after scoring his earliest solo hit with this song, but regardless of who really "wrote" it, the song contains some of the most fluid slide work from one of rock’s most unique guitarists.