Epiphone had been the budget reflection of Gibson for the longest time. It was contractually assigned to re-interpret Gibson’s elite craftsmanship on a budget. It’s no secret that this production philosophy would include tremendous compromise. The world had learnt to accept these short-comings namely due to the big name backing; it’s an endorsed compromise. Take it or leave it. The guitar under scrutiny this time is Epiphone’s Jared James Nichols signature model, the Old Glory (OG) Les Paul as it’s called. Surely, something that looks this good isn’t a favoured compromise, yes?
Fit, finish, QC
The artist series of instruments in the Epiphone line represents its pinnacle craftsmanship. These are top-of-the-line models befitting the artiste’s endorsement with reputation at stake. So any foul aspects of construction would bog Epiphone deeper into the second fiddle swamp & drag the gullible endorser with it because misery loves company. In this case, ladies & gentlemen, the OG is perhaps one of the rare Epiphone feat that truly promotes its reputation. From one end to the other, this guitar is simply well-made. The fitting Is immaculate, everything sits well in place. All glued appointments showed no shoddiness. Fret wires were hammered in precisely & the nut wasn’t a case of an over-sized unit glued haphazardly into position. They aced this at the factory. Hardware-wise, the Grover tuners & wrap tail bridge were also well installed. Together with the Seymour Duncan P-90 pickup, the factory hands did a good job.
Please be informed that the OG is not a glossed over unit. The final coat here is a satin treatment which in my opinion is a deserving approach in evoking a subdued but classic look. This might disappoint fans who wish this guitar would reflect light in every opportunity & bling like a diamond but it’s called Old Glory, lest we forget. A name that invokes time-tested greatness with no over-dependence on looks but excelling in performance. This brings us nicely to the next appraisal segment.
The OG was made to stun. It has a singular objective & is rightfully endowed with a single bridge P-90. The back story of this limitation is that Jared Nichols himself disowned the neck pickup during his pre-OG days. He is pick-free & depends solely on his fingers to craft out endless tone possibilities. As such, the neck pickup would manifest clarity issues & would not be as useful to him. Hyped quirk, you say? Jeff Beck & Mark Knopfler were ahead in this game & they didn’t look back. Jared Nichols shouldn’t too. The tones coming from this guitar in general inclines towards midrange brightness but with a rich serving of warmth; it’s the massive body wood singing plus the fact that it’s a Seymour Duncan at the helm. What I noticed about Duncan P-90s or its other fat-sounding single coil counterpart, the Phat Cat, is that of incredible warmth. I would refrain from singing further praises in this aspect as I am a Seymour Duncan fan to begin with & would be seen as making favoured remarks to the detriment of objectivity. Then again, there’s no hiding obvious quality. I’m also thankful that this guitar features an ebony fretboard. Its super dark hue matches the overall vibe of the guitar. More importantly, it feels very sturdy to the touch supplementing the high chances of this instrument being rough-handled. Ebony is also known to contribute to a more defined top end but hearing that coming from this guitar is subjective.
Despite a cavity-less construction at the neck pickup position, the body had been chambered out at strategic places to enhance physical management. The control cavity was still routed to contain four knobs despite only housing a pair in this case. However, the overall feel here is that of a heavy instrument but an enjoyable physical struggle at that, nothing back breaking. Thanks to this consideration, we get a healthy sustain & nothing less.
The neck profile is that of a fat, 50s Les Paul. If it’s your first & you are from the bolt-on camp, Fender’s offset Telecaster’s neck carve is a very good reference. Nothing too shred-friendly with this kind of neck but playing fast is definitely possible after some getting used to. Just bear with the quick setting in of lethargy. I’m rather critical with neck issues as it’s a make-or-break factor when choosing a guitar (next to tone) & I’m happy to report that this review model has not bothered me in any way. In short – it’s a well-made instrument. Even the restrictive wrap over bridge isn’t one to suppress creativity, heavy music proponents included.
I was never an Epiphone fan, especially the Les Pauls. The manufacturer is riding on Gibson’s reputation & boutique vibe to propel their end of the bargain. In most cases, the instruments couldn’t live up to expectations, they fell flat & relied on looks to see them through. These days, we notice a more conscious effort by Epiphone to level up quality & performance especially so for their upper end models. Those critics who swing by telling you to spend your cash on an upper tier Epiphone instead of a lower tier Gibson, got it right. I’m not here to school you in on brand supremacy, I’m telling you to be objective & go with the good instrument & leave snobbery aside because the OG is one heck of a good guitar, listing for less than a grand. On a closing note, I’d like to remind you that all this goodness is coming from China. That’s right, that proverbial pirate bay is actually harbouring fine craftsmanship somewhere within its crack & crevices. Those who embrace goodness per se will see quality where it’s due, those who couldn’t see actually chose not to. Quite easily, the guitar of the year for me.
Epiphone: Jared James Nichols Old Glory Les Paul
Included: Epiphone Epilite soft case + certificate of authenticity
Availability: Swee Lee Co.