John Mayer, "Continuum" (Columbia)
With his latest effort, Mayer fuses inspired guitar playing to soulful, pop-based R&B.
Umphrey's McGee, "The Bottom Half" (Sci Fidelity)
This just-released, double-disc collection of B-sides and outtakes displays Jake Cinninger's dazzling dexterity as a guitarist. That said, it's on the concert stage that Cinninger truly shines, so check out the band's Web site, www.umphreys.com, to hear prime Cinninger.
Wilco, "Sky Blue Sky" (Nonesuch)
On this long-awaited album, which drops May 1, guitarist Nels Cline continues to impress with his ability to blend the melodic with the atonal, the beautiful with the brazen and bold.
Mercury Rev, "The Essential Mercury Rev" (V2)
Grasshopper offers his own take on art-rock throughout this twin-disc set spanning Mercury Rev's career to date.
Radiohead, "Hail to the Thief" (Capitol)
Guitarist Johnny Greenwood has taught us to expect the unexpected, and throughout Radiohead's 2003 tour de force, he plays like a great painter paints, employing colors -- both textural and melodic -- to highlight the songs.
Wolfmother, "Wolfmother" (Interscope)
Who says hard-rock guitar playing is dead? Certainly not Andrew Stockdale, who gets his Zeppelin on all over this dense, butt-kicking record.
Viva la guitar!
-- Jeff Miers