Some of the greatest guitarists of all time have stunned us with their flowing and lyrical slide guitar solos on both acoustic guitar and electric guitar. With nothing more than a piece of glass, metal, or stone these creative musicians can coax that distinctive sound from their instruments. You can find this technique in almost any genre. And we love a good list, so let’s take a look at some of the best slide guitar songs out there.
There are tons of great indie pop and indie rock songs that feature slide guitar. And, we’ll include quite a few of them in this list. But, we also want to pay homage to the songs and styles that influenced those indie artists as well.
Our criteria are pretty loose here. As long as slide guitar is a prominent feature in the song, it’s eligible. Also, there may be some bleed over between slide guitar and lap steel guitar; however, we are working on a list for lap steel guitar on its own. Stay tuned.
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20 of the best slide guitar songs to check out now
As mentioned, slide guitar has been a staple in popular music and continues to define genres and expand the sound palette for the guitar. Artists can use slide guitar to evoke all kinds of feelings in a song. Let’s have a look at 20 of the best slide guitar songs and the artists who wrote and performed them.
Indie songs featuring slide guitar
1. Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked – Cage the Elephant
The third single released in 2008 by Cage the Elephant made the Top 40 in the UK charts, a first for the band. “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” also achieved the third spot on the Alternative song charts and number 92 on the Billboard 100 in 2009 in the US.
The slides in this iconic, chart-topping Cage the Elephant song deliver the best of slide guitar goodness. The slide guitar lends an almost haphazard feeling to the steady, driving beat of the song, and you can’t help but bop along.
2. Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes
From the Album Elephant released in 2003, “Seven Nation Army” is an absolute staple, utilizing the expressive sound of slide guitar along with low octave pitch shift and distorted vocals. This is a great example of classic Jack White – old style meets new technology in music.
The song went on to rank highly in several charts and won the Best Rock Song category at the 46th annual Grammy Awards.
3. Here Comes the Breeze – Gomez
“Here Comes the Breeze” is a hit song released in 1998 by Gomez, the amazing English indie rock, folk, and alternative band. They just do so much, don’t they? This song comes from their debut album Bring It On which went platinum the same year of its release. The slide guitar in this song has a more mellow, almost relaxing feel to it.
4. Love Songs on the Radio – Mojave 3
Slowing it way down is Mojave 3 with “Love Songs on the Radio”. Channeling Mazy Star and Cowboy Junkies, Mojave 3’s use of slide guitar is ethereal and beautiful. The notes bend in a slow, dreamy way, giving the music a quality like it’s floating away.
5. Ghost of the Mountain – Justin Johnson
Folk and blues artist Justin Johnson puts the slide guitar at center stage with “Ghost of the Mountain.” This captivating song comes from his 2021 album, The Bootleg Series, Vol 3: Son of a Witch. Much of his output is solo guitar work that captures the folksy and bluesy sounds of earlier American folk music.
6. Country Feedback – REM
From their 1991 Album Out of Time, “Country Feedback” is one of REM’s country-rock influenced songs where the wail of slide guitar adds to the track’s somber feel. Lead vocalist Michael Stipe laid down the vocals as a raw, one-take recording, stating once at a concert that Country Feedback is one of his favorite REM songs.
7. Talking in Code – Margot and the Nuclear So & So’s
“Talking in Code” comes from Margot and the Nuclear So & So’s debut album, The Dust of Retreat, released in 2006. Hailing from Indianapolis, Indiana, the band has released six albums, with some critics describing their debut offering as “cinematic chamber pop.” “Talking in Code” has a bit of a classic indie feel to it, with dramatic drum rolls introducing the exposed vocals and slide guitar.
8. Heaven or Las Vegas – Cocteau Twins
With a strong synth-pop start, “Heaven or Las Vegas” by the Cocteau Twins instantly introduces you to a fantasy world with its fun, playful-sounding vocals, and heavy synth throughout. Plus, that iconic slide guitar artfully woven into the track gives it a lasting impression. If you don’t click any other link in this article, click this one. Trust us.
Amazing…if this doesn’t make you cry you have no soul.
9. Space Song – Beach House
Another trip into synth-land, “Space Song” gives us an electronic organ that leads effortlessly into an awesome, bubbly beat and dreamy slides that make you feel like you’re playing the underwater level of a video game. The lyrics feel like they’re coming through some kind of dystopian loudspeaker. Definitely a must-listen for any indie fan who loves the creative use of slide guitar.
10. Kokomo, IN – Japanese Breakfast
Japanese Breakfast delivers a creative use of slide guitar in “Kokomo, IN”. A modern take on a more classic-sounding tune, this is the kind of song you can’t help but envision listening to on a great road trip. The strings drive us forward, and when the slide comes in, you know you’re taking some turns on a lazy back road somewhere.
Sweet. Here’s the live version.
11. I Can’t Be Satisfied – Muddy Waters
One of the great bluesmen of his generation, Muddy Waters made this quintessential slide guitar recording in 1948.
“I Can’t Be Satisfied” helped elevate Waters into stardom. His prolific recording output in the 1940s made Waters one of the best proponents of Chicago Blues. And, his slide guitar work has been said to be the catalyst for the development of rock and roll.
12. Dust My Broom – Elmore James
Elmore James inspired a whole generation of blues guitarists. He was dubbed “king of the Slide Guitar” and was best known for his recording of “Dust My Broom” released in 1951, where his expressive slide guitar shines through. It’s a standard 12-bar blues tune transformed into a powerful love ballad.
13. Statesboro Blues – The Allman Brothers
One band to help bring slide guitar into the mainstream was the Allman Brothers. Although “Statesboro Blues” was first recorded by Blind Willie McTell in 1928, the Allman Brothers’ rendition made the song a more modern success.
The slide guitar carries the melody, mixed with strong guitar riffs and a country/western feel.
14. Native Stepson – Sonny Landreth
Sonny Landreth is one of the great virtuosos of slide guitar. He developed a technique whereby he plays notes and chords behind the slide bar while he plays. “Native Stepson” was released in 1995 and is a great example of Landreth’s mastery of slide guitar.
15. The Joker – Steve Miller Band
One of the most popular slide guitar songs to come out of the Steve Miller Band, “The Joker” was Miller’s first hit, released in 1973. The song reached no. 1 on the Billboard charts. Lead guitarist Boz Scaggs contributed the memorable slide guitar solo.
Classic rock songs
16. Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth) – George Harrison
George Harrison was not a guitar whiz the likes of Steve Vai or Jeff Beck, but in 1969 he reinvented himself playing slide guitar. He was a musician who truly seemed to love string instruments, including the ukulele.
“Give Me Love” (1973) came off the Living in the Material World album and became Harrison’s second US number-one hit. The slide guitar comes in at the very beginning, introducing us to Harrison’s incredibly subtle vision for the world.
17. In My Time of Dying – Led Zeppelin
Jimmy Page explored slide guitar far more than his contemporaries at the time. A hit single from the Physical Graffiti album (1975), “In My Time of Dying” has Page playing slide guitar with open A tuning where he achieves a rich, dark tone.
18. Slow Ride – Foghat
Released in 1975 on the Fool for the City album, “Slow Ride” is a laid-back groove full of catchy riffs and gritty vocals. You might know this one from playing it on Guitar Hero, and it’s one you’d never get tired of trying to master for those awesome slides.
The bluesy style rhythm guitar compliments the classical slide guitar sounds that make this song a hit. It’s no surprise that “Slow Ride” was named the 45th “Best Hard Rock” song of all time in 2009 by VH1.
19. Tush – ZZ Top
“Tush” is a classic from ZZ Top’s Fandango album released in 1975. The track opens with a strong rock beat and only gets better from there. The impressive slide guitar solo is by Billy Gibbons, and the band mentions that the song was written at a sound check in around 10 minutes. With such tender, heartfelt lyrics, it’s hard to see how!
20. High Hopes – Pink Floyd
From the ominous introduction into the dramatic opening, “High Hopes” is rock in its purest form. David Gilmore records a stellar performance using slide guitar techniques. Off their 1994 The Division Bell album, the lyrics portray ideas about what is gained and lost throughout one’s life against a background of epic rock goodness.
Best slide guitar songs: Final thoughts
One of the best things about examining these songs is realizing how creative musicians can be.
By taking a simple piece of glass, metal, or some other material, they’re able to produce haunting, lyrical sounds from a guitar that often sounds exactly the opposite. It also calls out the fact that the guitar itself is an amazingly versatile instrument, capable of producing sounds that are widely varying in style and emotion.
Let us know in the comments if we missed any of your favorite slide guitar songs. Maybe we’ll add them to the list.