If you're into digital file playback, you might find some recordings of interest at the Blue Coast Records website or its associated DownloadsNow site. One thing that's nice with these sites is that samples (often full length) are always provided for preview. As an example, here's an album (downloadable as standard resolution wav files) that's all solo guitar: Long Summer Days by Karen Segal
I still listen to the old Levinson "Elliot Fisk Plays Scarlatti", which is usually available on Ebay. The Sheffield Micheal Newman record is also very nice. Michael Hedges "Arial Boundaries" is good too. He plays electric, but it's very melodic. Ralph Towner "Timeline" is excellent, as is Peder Riis "Classical Guitar" on Opus3.
Slack Key Guitar Volume 2
10 different guitar soloists .... very highly recommended .... one of all-time fave of all of these.
A Unique Classical Guitar Collection. CD 22062
Opus 3 stereo/ hybrid SACD cd made in Germany
Stockholm guitars Quartet performing Bach, Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Brahms, Debussy,
Also solo performances
Ottmar Liebert Nouveau Flamenco
Higher Octave Music
The last one is a electric guitars duet that leaves most guitar fans gobsmacked;
Chester and Lester
Cher Atkins and Les Paul as duelling guitar soloists backed up by the best in Nashville
RCA Nashville / Legacy American Mikestones series
You didn't specify a genre, so this list is a little far-ranging, but they're all marvelous.
Earl Klugh (Solo Guitar and Handpicked are good choices)
Laurence Juber (take your pick, Guitarist is good)
Joe Pass (Songs for Ellen)
Henry Mancini -Pink Guitar (various artists, will give you another dozen guitarists to explore)
Antonio Foriconi (Touch Wood, Meet Me in London or Acoustic Mania)
Groovemasters...about a dozen volumes in this series of acoustics guitarists playing duets
Carlos Barbosa-Lima and Sharon Isbin...Rhapsody in Blue/West Side Story (simply superb). Barbosa-Lima has some terrific solo albums as well (Impressions and Music of the Americas come to mind)
Los Angeles Guitar Quartet (take your pick, I like Spin)
Tony Rice (Native American and Tony Rice Sings Gordon Lightfoot)
Christopher Parkening (Parkening Plays Bach or Simple Gifts are great, Jubilation is an undiscovered treasure)
boy, there are tons more, depending on what types of music you enjoy. Happy hunting!
You can go so many different ways.
Tommy Emmanuel's playing on Center Stage (a live album) may be a little flashy, but Good Lord that man can play a guitar. If you're looking for dazzling technique in a pop format, this is as good a place to start as any.
John Renbourne's The Hermit is another dazzler, although it's a hybrid of pop and baroque styles. Renbourne's playing is subtler, but he's got monster chops, too.
A new release to consider is Acoustic Classics by Richard Thompson. Some of the playing may be more aggressive than you've expressed an interest in, but Yikes! this is a great record.
Another thing to consider is the harmonic side of the equation. Standard tuning lends (although it doesn't necessarily limit) itself to standard harmonies. Once you exit that world, things change. Richie Havens, Joni Mitchell, and Lindsey Buckingham are IMO all virtuoso acoustic players who explore alternate tunings to great effect. You'd probably want to go track by track to find more melodic solo selections, but it's worth the effort.
For sure, check out "Time Precious Time" by Buckingham. I think it's actually played on a Telecaster, but it's a fingerpicked piece that feels acoustic. The tuning is bizarre and his chording is unlike anything I've heard elsewhere.
BTW, per several recommendations above, I'd also suggest Joe Pass for a jazz option, but I'd go to "Virtuoso" which is more a collection of standards.
Michael Hedges and Nils Lofgren are excellent choices that offer great sound/performance quality. Another "audiophile" recording that wasn't mentioned is "Friday Night in San Francisco"-DeLucia/DiMeola and McLaughlin. On the mellow side Laurindo Almeida and Charlie Byrd mix classical with jazz. You can't go wrong with any of these recordings especially on the Concord label. Since you mentioned vocals Almeida with Sammy Davis Jr. is excellent in performance and sound quality. It has become a favorite "chill out" recording of mine.
Doc Watson; Doc and Merle Watson
Ry Cooder -- Paris-Texas soundtrack.
+1 to John/Paco/Al
Egberto Gismonti mostly found on ECM label is new age/jazz solo guitarist.
Vlatko Stefanovsky/Miroslav Tadik acoustic albums -- EXTREAMLY ADDICTIVE! Once downloaded, I couldn't stop listening for weeks.
Filip Catherine(who once trained Larry Corryel)
Jim Hall/Pat Metneny acoustic duo
Certainly John Williams!
+1 to Manuel Barrueco; -- They are veterans both
today's classical guitar maestros:
EXPERIMENTAL AND MODERN CLASSICAL:
Goran Ivanovic/Andreas Kapsalis acoustic duo. Goran also released his solo album as well.
California Guitar Trio also Robert Fripp String Quintet 3+2 with California Guitar Trio and Tony Levin(stick bass, fender bass).
Mapman your mention of Doc Watson reminds me of that great country bluegrass album "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" featuring the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and a cast of country blue grass legends including Doc, Vassar Clements, Roy Acuff, Earl Scruggs and other notables. Superb recording and the CD has bonus tracks not on the album. Highly recommended acoustic set.
This is a huge category and you already have some terrific suggestions. In no particular order, here are some of my favorite acoustic guitar artists that will inspire and sound great on your system:
Each of these artists has their own distinctive style ranging from fingerpicking pyrotechnics to old fashioned ballads. I had the pleasure of seeing Michael Hedges when he was alive. To this day, watching him play "Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys" on the acoustic guitar was one of the best concert experiences I have had. Harry Manx is special because he plays a moganvita (sp?) which is an Indian instrument that crosses a traditional 6 string guitar over a 32 string sitar. The result is a very full wall of sound and a pain in the rear to tune. I recommend "Road Ragas". Of course, in the Winter, I still enjoy putting on old acoustic Neil Young and the Grateful Dead while sitting in front of the fireplace reading and sipping bourbon.
Grisman and Jerry Garcia had a Bluegrass group in the early-mid-70's named Old & In The Way, and their debut album was put out on audiophile label Acoustic Disc. It sounds fantastic!
Rounder Records is known for their excellent sounding albums, including those of Tony Rice (he's a great guitarist). So is Sugar Hill Records (the Bluegrass label, not the Hip Hop one ;-), and Chris Hillmans' albums on that label are fantastic!