When not referencing one of the greatest videogames of all time, the words "guitar hero" typically relate to the classic axe masters of yore—Hendrix, Clapton, Page, etc. These are the guys who took the instrument to entirely new levels, mixing technical skill with serious chops. That being said, it's bizarre that one of the greatest guitar heroes of all time is not a shredder, but a subtle Scottish folkie named Bert Jansch.
Jansch has been credited as influencing everyone from Nick Drake to Neil Young to Johnny Marr, and while he may still be relatively obscure in the US, his impact on popular music, and more importantly on guitar playing, is immeasurable. Jansch's first solo record, released in 1965, was a blend of traditional folk and blues, and his finger-picking style of play was less pop than American folk, way more technical, and a whole hell of a lot darker. His distinct brand of playing helped gain him notoriety, but it was his work in the superb group Pentangle that made his skills truly shine. Pentangle was rooted in experimentation, trading in straightforward folk for a more traditional pop-and-rock approach to psychedelia and prog-rock, proving Jansch's overall versatility and solidifying his cult guitar hero status.
Last year saw the release of Jansch's The Black Swan, one of the better records in his catalog and easily his best in years. Typically, American critics were too busy talking up Bob Dylan's mediocre Modern Times to even pay attention to Jansch's comparable, if not easily superior, album. For someone who has been at it for over 40 years, Jansch manages to continually develop his guitar god status, and by continuing to remain relevant to this day, he's guaranteeing himself a spot as one of the greatest guitarists of all time.