This week’s featured artist is Jerry Cantrell! Born March 18, 1966 he is best known as the founder, lead guitarist, co-lead vocalist, and main songwriter of the rock band Alice in Chains. The band rose to international fame in the early 1990s during Seattle’s grunge movement, and is known for its distinctive vocal style and the harmonized vocals between Cantrell and Layne Staley (and later Cantrell and William DuVall).
Alice in Chains began a lengthy hiatus beginning in 1996 due to Layne Staley’s depression and drug problems, which tragically resulted in his death in 2002. Beginning in 2004 the band began playing numerous reunion shows with guest vocalists including James Hetfield, Maynard James Keenan, Phil Anselm, and Ann Wilson. In 2006 Alice in Chains hired William DuVall as co-lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist, choosing someone who had their own take rather than trying to “clone Layne and step on his legacy”. The new lineup has consisted of Cantrell singing most lead vocals on new material, with DuVall mainly singing harmonies and Staley’s parts in the older songs.
Alice in Chains released their first album without (but dedicated to) Staley in 2008, entitled Black Gives Way To Blue, which was met with critical and commercial acclaim. Since then they have released two more albums, with 2018’s Rainier Fog also garnering acclaim.
Cantrell’s guitar work frequently blurs the line between rock and metal, relying heavily on melody and switching between pentatonics, blues scales, and phyrgian mode. His solos feature heavy use of long bends, with wah, delay, reverb, fuzz, and chorus. He has a signature Cry Baby Wah model, and commonly uses a G&L Guitars Rampage model.
Cantrell is widely considered to be one of the greatest rock guitarists of his generation. Guitar World Magazine ranked Cantrell as the 38th out of “100 Greatest Heavy Metal Guitarists of All Time” in 2004, and the 37th “Greatest Guitar Player of All Time” in 2012. Guitar World also ranked Cantrell’s solo in “Man In The Box” at No. 77 on its list of “100 Greatest Guitar Solos” in 2008. He also was named “Riff Lord” by British hard rock/metal magazine Metal Hammer in 2006.
Cantrell also has a solo career with two full length albums, and has collaborated with many different artists.
What’s your favourite Cantrell solo, or Alice in Chains song? Many have not listened to them since Staley’s death – have you given the new material a chance?
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