Luca Stricagnoli.
Luca Stricagnoli.

Flying fingers: CANdYRAT Records

Discover some of the best acoustic guitarists on the Internet

Until about a generation ago, the only way to discover new music was to trot around town looking for one of those rare independent music stores that stocked more than just the chart-toppers. In a musty, dimly lit shop, you’d have to browse through hundreds of records and CDs to find an artiste you thought you would like.

This generation simply has to reach into their pockets and pull out their phones to find new music. There are tons of sources for both online and free music on the Internet, but that means it’s sometimes as hard to find artistes or bands you like as it was sifting through records in a store.

It helps when a particular genre of music is curated and stored in one place. And, if you are a fan of instrumental guitar, particularly acoustic guitar, CANdYRAT Records has just what you need. An independent record label and online music boutique based in Wisconsin, US, CANdYRAT Records signs up musicians and bands from a variety of genres, but with a focus on solo guitarists.

The label’s first artiste was a Canadian fingerstyle guitarist named Don Ross, and though they have since branched out into signing electric guitarists, singer-songwriters, keyboardists, one-man bands and even some indie bands, their most popular artists are acoustic guitarists, such as Andy McKee, Ewan Dobson and Luca Stricagnoli.

If you’ve heard of any of those three, it’s because videos of them playing have been going viral in the past year on CANdYRAT’s official YouTube channel. While big record labels are still struggling to figure out what to do in an age of free downloads, CANdYRAT deliberately uses online platforms to promote its artistes. It makes their music available online on its YouTube channel, its website,, and its online radio. A lot of the music is available for free, and if you like a particular artiste, you can buy his music on the website in either digital or physical formats.

About a year ago, CANdYRAT’s YouTube channel shot to fame when a live recording of McKee playing his composition Drifting went viral, eventually getting more than 50 million views. Now, the YouTube channel has almost 500,000 subscribers and is one of the best places to go to discover new solo guitarists.

On the YouTube channel, the videos are conveniently categorized by genre. While there are plenty of original compositions in CANdYRAT’s collection, the label also shelves impressive and unique covers. Among our favourites are Stricagnoli’s covers of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck and Guns N’ Roses’ Sweet Child O’ Mine.

Apart from McKee, Stricagnoli and Dobson, some of the guitarists worth listening to are Mike Dawes, Stefano Barone and electric guitarist Steffen Schackinger, who also plays the sitar and includes Indian influences in his compositions.

CANdYRAT Records is part of a new wave of labels seeking to use the Web as a way to promote music. While it is undoubtedly a risk to post so much good music online—some may accuse them of encouraging piracy—it is a way to draw in new listeners. And, clearly, in CANdYRAT’s case, it is an effective one.