In embarking on any endeavor to decide who is the best, those engaged in the activity must recognize, and by extension acknowledge, that it is futile. Subjectivity holds sway over every aspect of any art form, and to dub someone the singular best of anything does a disservice to the area being dubbed. One person might possess an undeniable technical skill from years and years of hard practice, but that doesn’t stop someone else from creating a piece of art that some else just happens to connect with more, to like more, to deem “better.” This rule holds true in everything, especially amongst guitarists.
What we here at RVA Mag are attempting to do with our list of the Top 5 Guitarists in Richmond is shine a light where perhaps it is needed. Sure, we could pick some of the biggest bands to come out of Richmond, name their guitar players, and it would be a perfectly fine list of great players who deserve all the praise they get. But, those who are out in the clubs, on the ground playing every night wherever they can whenever they can because they know that they have something to show the world and the world just hasn’t seen it yet — these are our people.
We have attempted to provide a glimpse into every aspect of the music scene, looking at guitarists that represent different genres prevelant in the city. So, rather than feature a bunch of metal guitarists who can shred, or singer songwriters who posses an assured talent, we aimed a large scope at the scene and picked from as wide a field as we could.
I am shocked by the amount of response, positive energy, and support I have seen from those in the seen in nominating these incredibly talented individuals to be named on our list. Some people really came out of the wood work to show us what they’ve got or came out in droves to show solidarity with their favorite guitarist. Criteria is based off of a combination of crowd sourced support, prominence on the scene, pure technical skill, and of course, good old fashioned subjectivity on our part. So, in no particular order, I present you with RVA Mag’s Top 5 Guitarists in Richmond 2023.
Forrest Link – A Versatile Master
In terms of versatility, there are few who can match Forrest Link. Link serves as the guitarist for Weekend Plans, a sprawling eight piece soul/funk outfit out of Richmond, but often as the lead guitar player in the Trunk Show, a local group that performs full album covers. Link has found a style that works for him personally with slappy, tonally dense funk chords hidden amongst pentatonic runs while still maintaining melody offering a sort of expression, yet restraint. It is this intentional style of playing that sets Link apart as melody and the allowing of space are rarely appreciated amongst guitar players, and this is coupled with his mastery and understanding of any style thrown his way in the Trunk Show. Beyond all that, Link possess a personality on stage almost beyond magnetic verging on show stealing. Never staying in one place, Link is controlling the stage jumping, dancing, expressing, and falling to his knees in pure elation at simply playing his instrument live for others to hear.
Jordan Reinecke (REIN) – Pop Rock Guitar Hero
I’ve been talking about Jordan Reinecke a lot these days, but with a lot in the works and fresh on the scene under his moniker REIN, it’s hard not to. We recently did a profile on REIN, and it is difficult to deny he’s got the look and the attitude down. No matter where he is, what guitar he has, or what amp he is playing it through, REIN’s guitar tone is always exactly the same and dialed in perfectly. His recorded music does him no justice as he appears to show extreme restraint in the studio. It is on stage where REIN truly shines allowing the music and moment to cary him to places that the sterile environment of a studio simply doesn’t allow for. REIN has the kind of control over his sound, with his guitar playing offering a perfect counter point to his voice, that only being a solo artist can provide; from start to finish, from the top to the bottom, REIN has his finger on the scale influencing every aspect of his recording. His pop tunes, though varying little in subject matter, are self-actualized and focused, knowing what they are, while this young artist explores what he is capable of around them.
Dylan Edwards – Mr. Shredwards
In and around the metal scene is where some of the quickest guitar players can be found, and amongst the members of post-hardcore band Fellowship one can see sitting patiently the face of Dylan Edwards. There are few, if any guitar players who can match Edwards for speed, and none who are quite so underrated. Fitting perfectly in the recordings of his band Followship, Edwards demonstrates an understanding of many advanced techniques like sweep picking, tapping, and pinch harmonics, and elaborates with his ability to transition flawlessly between them. This provides Edwards with a mastery of his guitar neck in a way that I have yet to see repeated in this city. His implication of old school metal techniques provide a bed for Fellowship to scream their hearts out in this field that often goes overlooked, but harbors some of the great guitarists of history. It is in his other band Loxias where Edwards solos more and is given the spotlight, though here he often exhibits more restraint as Loxias is slightly less as consistently heavy as Followship. Edwards’ lighting fast fingers and lack of ego firmly plant him among some of the great Richmond instrumentalists.
holden Wilson – The Prince of Psych
Psychedelia is almost a lost art form. However, somewhere, most likely at The Camel, Holden Wilson is keeping the tradition alive. The principle songwriter for local hotshots Ten Pound Snail, Wilson is exactly the kind of old school meets modern that the music industry needs. Serving as the singer and guitarist, Wilson holds down the propulsion of Ten Pound Snail with gusto, grit, and an androgynous stage persona that any rock band would kill to have up front. Often complimenting their voice with a guitar harmony, Wilson allows the room for the other members of the band to shine in their own right, but knows when it’s their time too shine and take the lead. With a guitar tone that drifts from jangly to fuzzy, from close and powerful to far off and dripping in reverb, Wilson has mastered the art of capturing blissed out ears staring at the ceiling from their spot where they are glued to a couch. Wilson is the kind of guitar player that will keep listeners guessing, because just when it seems that they are keeping the vibe mellow and trippy, Wilson will lead Ten Pound Snail into a heavy double time bashing from wall to wall and back again before listeners even know what happened.
Tim Beavers II – Slippery Blues Boy
The star of Tim Beavers II has risen, fallen, and is rising again. Coming to the spotlight as the frontman of successful Richmond group People’s Blues of Richmond, the band broke up at the end of 2019 after becoming a bit of a phenomenon. He had started a new band just as his old was collapsing, but of course 2020 brought the live music industry to a complete and utter stop. For the past few years though he has shown he has no problem starting from scratch, creating two new groups The Mighty Good Times and Tim & Neko (the latter with Nekoro Williams, the drummer for the majority of People’s Blues of Richmond’s run). Beavers draws influence from a number of different styles from reggae, to vaudeville, to jazz, but ultimately he is steeped in the long tradition of the blues. In a three piece rock band the guitarist must have serious chops to not only fill out the mid tones and rhythm, but to also serve as the lead instrument, often at the same time, and Beavers’ mastery of the slimy blues guitar is what constantly draws us back to his playing time and time again. Though he has less space to fill in The Might Good Times, an unconventional four piece with a violin player, he has even more space to fill in Tim & Neko, a two piece band with just him and a drummer. He does this flawlessly though using octave pedals and riff based playing to fill out the groups sound in a fashion befitting only of the great guitar players of Richmond.
Thank you to everyone who submitted themselves or nominated friends, family, or just those they are huge fans of. We received many emails and messages, and we did our best to include a mix of those who garnered public support with those who exhibit skill silently. This is in no way comprehensive and is based off of subjective criteria that can not truly be quantified. We appreciate everyone who participated in our analysis, and we hope to do it again to promote artists that desperately need a spotlight shone on them.
Main photo by Tyler Clemmensen