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Best American Female Guitarists: Shredding Sirens

Sunday Simmons ItcherThe role of the guitar in popular music is undisputed. It’s the heart of Muddy Waters’ laid back blues, the backbone of Chuck Berry’s Rock ‘n Roll revolution, the fuzz-laden soul of a Jimi Hendrix’ anthem, the steel twang of Bonnie Raitt’s country roots, the technical wizardry behind Steve Vai’s metal excellence… and everything in between. ~ Sunday Simmons

America’s Guitar Godesses

“The Guitar is a shape-shifter, something that plays all types of music and really fills all kinds of roles.” ~ Kaki King

Whilst it’s fair to say we probably know of more male guitar gods than female ones, the world has many great female guitarists. Here I give you some of America’s finest, from sensational session guitarist Jennifer Batten to thrash metal queen The Great Kat.

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Marnie Stern

Song recommendation – Check out ‘You Don’t Turn Down’  

Experimental rock guitarist Marnie Stern begun her career with the release of her debut album ‘In Advance Of A Broken Arm’ in 2007, which received excellent press, including the New York Times stating it was ‘The year’s most exciting rock ‘n roll album’.

Marnie’s tapping style of guitar playing is reminiscent of Steve Vai and Paul Gilbert, although for me there’s a definite hint of Jeff Beck ambience going on there, too. With influences including Taking Heads and The Who, Marnie has a diverse sound, hard to define but amazing to witness – melodic and often heavy.

Hauntingly melodic harmonies.

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Kaki King

Song recommendation – ‘Doing The Wrong Thing’

Atlanta born Kaki King hit the scene with her debut album ‘Everybody Loves You’ in 2003 to critical acclaim, and has since worked with the likes of Eddie Vedder (Soundgarden) and Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters). Kaki’s energetic live shows across the globe have gained her an army of followers, and her inclusion in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of New Guitar Gods has earned her a place in guitar history.

Constantly changing genre and musical direction, Kaki has succeeded in not being pigeonholed, and her jazz-tinged, fret tapping, slap bass techniques give this lady a sound all her own. Kaki’s acoustic style has a flamenco feel, particularly in the way she uses the guitar for percussion. Sensational and often complex, Kaki’s unique playing sets her apart from her peers.

Finger picking fury.

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Jennifer Batten

Song recommendation – Check out ‘Cat Fight’  

Think you don’t know Jennifer Batten? Think again. As a session guitarist for Michael Jackson, she’s the one you hear shredding away on his legendary albums BAD, Dangerous and HIStory. Ever played air guitar to the solo on Beat It? It was her amazing guitar licks you were emulating…or is that just me…

Anyway… as a session guitarist and also solo performer, Jennifer has wowed crowds globally, and released three albums. Citing the likes of guitar legends BB King and Jeff Beck as early influences, this queen of electric rock guitar is arguably one of the most talented around – the sheer depth of feeling and technical wisdom on her track ‘Cat Fight’ places her easily on par with her own personal idols. 

Guitar shredding to the max.

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Noveller

Song recommendation – ‘No Dreams’

Noveller is the experimental solo project of Brooklyn based ‘Parts & Labour’ guitarist Sarah Lipstate. With three albums to date, her music is densely layered and harmonic, with an ambience not unlike eighties experimental/prog rock band Tangerine Dream.

To describe it as background music would be grossly unfair, as the ethereal quality of Sarah’s sonic guitar has an almost space-like or otherworldly quality – having said that, it’s mood music, something that will stay with you long after you’ve heard it, but not necessarily be something you could hum out loud whilst waiting for the bus. Unusual guitar playing by a very talented lady.

Ambience personified.

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The Great Kat

Song recommendation – ‘Beethoven Mosh 5th Symphony in C Minor’ 

Last but certainly not least, thrash metal mayhem in the form of English born, New York raised Katherine Thomas, or The Great Kat as she’s more widely known. Classically trained Kat is most famous for her high speed interpretations of pieces of classical music.

Named one of the fastest shredders of all time, the comparisons to Yngwie Malmsteem have to be made, although Kat does claim to be the reincarnation of Beethoven, which I don’t believe is a claim Yngwie has ever made! Kat’s persona is tongue-in-cheek and played for fun, but her talent is for real. If you’re feeling brave check out ‘Metal Messiah’, crank it up loud and hope your ears don’t bleed!

Classical music. Speed metal style.

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Chicks with Blazing Licks… Finger Pickin’ Good…

Some incredible talent there, diverse and not afraid to cross genre boundaries. I could have gone on and on (hardly surprising!) – Deborah Coleman for some bluesy riffs, rising star Desiree Basset’s stupendous talent… the list is endless.

Personally I love Jennifer Batten, some old school guitar hero-esque licks, and you only have to look at her rock credentials to know she’s a superstar. Jennifer’s version of Aretha’s ‘Respect’ is just incredible. It absolutely rocks out loud, and the solo is perfect.

I love the sound of an electric guitar played well, I favour a Les Paul shape and sound myself, and have been known to play a few mean riffs in my time. So, check these ladies out, and don’t forget to let us know what you think, we love your feedback!

Oi Oi, I’m Sunday Simmons, professional freelance writer and indie author. Born into a family of entertainers, musicians and artists, I chose the pen as my instrument at a young age and I’ve been scribbling stuff ever since. Hopefully some of it makes sense! Writing is my passion, and with three kids and plenty of pets, life is chaos and I love it.