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For old school classic rock fans, you know what’s up. the genre is packed with expressive vocals, thundering drums, heavy bass and, most importantly, explosive guitars.

Most of us grew up listening to the likes of Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, KISS and Heart on the FM radio and it could get a bit stale and certainly repetitive at times. And so when the new wave of classic rock began over the past decade, many were probably skeptical.
It didn’t take long for Nostalgia to come face-to-face with a volcanic body of work brewing from the pores of newcomers like Greta Van Fleet, Thunderpussy and Dirty Honey. Moreover, and to the surprise of many, these rising stars not only lived up to the expectations of their forebears, but in many cases exceeded them.

There’s a lot to be said for the new wave of classic rock, but let’s let the guitarists who have shaped the era so far do the heavy lifting. Below are nine guitarists who are defining the new wave of classic rock.

9. Griffin Tucker of Classless Act

Griffin Tucker of Classless Act. Image: Kevin Mazur / Getty Images for Live Nation

Listen. Welcome to the Show!

As newcomers to the new wave of classic rock, Classless Act took a huge step forward in 2022. First up, the Los Angeles-based outfit released their debut, aptly titled: Welcome to the Show!, and then signed the young rockers as openers for their 2022 world-famous stadium tour. Classless Act does a lot of things well, but its guitar-driven heroics are where this band shines. Driven by Griffin Tucker’s fiery connections and ear-splitting power chords, it’s not hard to imagine Tucker rising to the top of the mythic heap in 2023.

8. Hannah Findlay of Stonefield

Hannah Findlay of Stonefield performs on stage at the Pyramid Rock Festival on December 30, 2012 in Melbourne, Australia.
Hannah Findlay of Stonefield. Image: Martin Philbay / Redferns

Listen. Turn off

Alongside her big sister Amy, Hannah Findlay of Australian rock outfit Stonefield takes her guitar prowess to new heights. A magnificent fusion of hard rock with a psychedelic twist not seen in a long time, Findlay are a rare breed in a sometimes stagnant era. Known as a mix of Gibson Les Pauls and SGs, Findlay’s intricate feats on Stonefield’s record are late-’60s beauty.

7. Jake Kiska to Greta Van Fleet

Jake Kiska Greta Van Fleet
Jake Kiska Greta Van Fleet. Image: Erica Goldring / Getty Images

Listen. Highway song

Loved by some and derided by just as many, there’s no denying that Michigan’s Greta Van Fleet helped usher in a new wave of classic rock. Sure, they wear their influences on their collective sleeves (hello, Led Zeppelin), but that doesn’t diminish the band’s feats, especially as they relate to their lead guitarist, Jake Kishka. Playing Greta Van Fleet’s (and Jake’s brother) sidekick Josh Kishka, Jake was able to remind fans of the magic of classic 70s rock, and for that we’ll always be grateful.

6. Tyler Bryant on Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown

Tyler Bryant

Listen. Ghost – rider

Hailing from Paris, Texas and wielding a hot pink Stratocaster, Tyler Bryant has combined blues and hard rock music in a way not often seen since the days of Clapton, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers. And with Brad Whitford’s son Graham handling the Shakedown’s rhythm duties these days, now more than ever, Bryant has the space and freedom to howl at the moon with enthusiasm. Innate skill aside, what makes Bryant unique is the raw soul he infuses into his playing, allowing him to speak to listeners in a unique musical language.

5. Joyous Wolf’s Blake Allard

Blake Allard of Joyous Wolf performs during the Las Rageous Music Festival at the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center on April 21, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Blake Allard of Joyous Wolf. Image: Gabe Ginsberg / Getty Images

Listen. fearless

Les Paul in hand, Orange County native Blake Allard returns to the classic rock era with his unique vintage aesthetic and cataclysmic riff-driven style. Truly humble yet utterly talented, Allard’s solos rip through the listener’s speakers with stunning intensity, culminating in sudden, blues-based choruses drenched in graceful splendor. Some players have the “it” factor, and Joyous Wolf’s young guitarist certainly has it.

4. Tristan Thomas of Florence Black

Listen. Can you feel it?

Three-piece Florence Black’s Welshman Tristan Thomas makes his Les Paul howl in agony and onscreen in pain, and he does it with a mile-long grin crawling across his bearded face. If you’ve heard the heavy music of Florence Black, you’ve witnessed Thomas’ unique blend of ’70s, ’80s and ’90s style that’s as unique as it is familiar. There’s something about Thomas’ playing that digs into the souls of unsuspecting listeners on a molecular level. For that reason, this once-in-a-generation talent is one to keep watching.

3. Jared James Nichols

Jared James Nichols
Image: David McCleister

Listen. Hard Wired

Nichols has probably been on most listeners’ radars for a while now, and for good reason, as his bluesy, Les Paul-infused riffs and solos are essential to the new wave of classic rock. Having recorded some of the genre’s most iconic music over the past decade, Nichols’ influence on young guitarists and the genre’s vitality are attested. Furthermore, his ability to carefully balance his ability to shred with the need to maintain audibility is just one of his many calling cards that Nichols has diligently honed over the past decade.

2. Whitney Petty from Thunderpussy

Whitney Petty of Thunderpussy performs during the 2018 Voodoo Music & Arts Experience on October 28, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Whitney Petty from Thunderpussy. Image: Tim Mosenfelder / Getty Images

Listen. Velvet Noose

During classic rock’s heyday in the 60s and 70s, the scene was unfairly lacking in female heroes. But as long as bone-crushing guitar heroes like Thunderpussy’s Whitney Petty are around, the future looks a lot brighter by the end. A beacon of light for young women looking to pick up the guitar, Patty has helped rekindle classic rock in the modern era through hard-hitting riffing, tasteful yet mind-altering solos and a gift for catchy songwriting. Few guitarists in the scene today rock the stage like Petty, and for that reason, along with dozens of others, the applause for Thunderpussy and Petty is well-earned.

1. John Notto of Dirty Honey

John Notto of Dirty Honey poses backstage at Shaky Knees Festival Day 3 in Atlanta Central Park on May 01, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia.
John Notto of Dirty Honey. Image: Scott Legato / Getty Images

Listen. Scars

Dirty Honey have become darlings of the new wave of classic rock, and to be fair, it’s not hard to see why. The band is great overall, but with a guitarist like Massachusetts native John Noto, success was a foregone conclusion. With a late ’50s Les Paul Burst in hand and the god-given ability to unleash the Kraken through rocking riffs, seismic rhythms and insane solos, Notto is the poster child for all things classic rock in the modern era. Few guitarists are worth the price of admission alone, but in the case of John Notto, we truly have one of those rare breeds.

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