Counting Crows have defined heartland pop for the new age. This solid six-piece band, fueled by the guitar team of Dan Vickrey (lead guitar) and Dave Bryson (rhythm guitar), have laid claim to the turf established by Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, and John Cougar Mellencamp in the past two decades and are currently revitalizing and reinventing the genre with their inimitable blend of pop, country, and rock influences. Along the way, the Vickrey-Bryson pairing has become a classic pop-rock guitar duo of the 90s. Let’s examine some of the duo’s magic chemistry found on A Long December, the lead single from their long-awaited Rediscovering the Satellites album.
The guitar roles throughout this track are beautifully defined yet blurred. If that sounds contradictory, you might be right, but it’s an arrangement that has graced the work of some of the finest twin-guitar teams in rock history, from the Beatles and the Stones to the present. The verse opens with Gtr. 1 (presumably Bryson) playing basic barre chords to lay down a simple but effective groove. Notice the strong comping, which breaks up the chords with a consistent low root note-strummed chord pattern.
The color guitar (Gtr. 2, presumably Vickrey) enters in the chorus with an arpeggiated approach, which produces a flowing texture that plays off Gtr. l’s sustaining background chords – much the same way that the right hand of a piano part plays off the left. By the end of the chorus, we are treated to a moment in the last four measures where the two guitars blend and blur their parts to create a remarkable tapestry of sound. Note the complementary but independent voicings in the phrase. Gtr. 2 plays a more lead-oriented part, Rhy. Fig. 1, consisting of higher-voiced F5, Bbsus2, and Gm chords [Fig. 1], while Gtr. 1 plays a more static part of F-to-Fsus4 triads [Fig. 2].
Dan Vickrey’s solo is the paragon of economy. Played entirely on the fourth string and utilizing only four notes of the F major scale [Fig. 3], it is on par with some of the best understated solos in rock history – such as those offered by feelmeisters like Neil Young and Robbie Robertson. It’s a challenge to say this much with a handful of notes, and Dan rises to the occasion beautifully with a brief but memorable outing that comes off more like a logical part of the song than an ostentatious guitar solo.
It’s a part of Counting Crows A Long December guitar lesson.
Below you can download PDF guitar tabs and sheet music of
A Long December with backing track
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