Rayland Baxter and Odessa Rose sample the wares offered in our holiday gear guide this year, from guitars to amps to keyboards to capos. And if you can’t foot the bill for a new axe or amp, well, check out our suggested stocking stuffers, which include some of our favorite gizmos.
(Photos by Mackenzie Moore)
Gretsch Electromatic G5422TDCG
The most obvious thing about the snow crest white Gretsch Electromatic G5422TDCG is that it’s simply gorgeous. The gold hardware against the bright white body of this bound double-cutaway beauty is striking to be sure. But the important question is: How does it play and sound?
The answer is: Pretty darn nice. The maple neck with rosewood fingerboard is fast and the 22 medium jumbo frets give just the right amount of resistance and bite, whether chording or playing lead. This awesome axe has a gold plexi pickguard, bound f-holes, classic “G” arrow control knobs, a rosewood-based Adjusto-Matic bridge and vintage-style open-back tuners, and of course a three-position pickup switch for the “Black Top” Filter’Tron pickups. These pickups sound like a million bucks, offering a warm jazzy sound from the front pickup to a twangy rockabilly tone in the back, and everything in between. Add the right reverb and use the Bigsby-licensed B60G vibrato tailpiece, and you’ll find yourself having a great time doing your best Brian Setzer, or maybe even finally learning some of those old Chet Atkins tunes that you’ve been scratching your head at for so many years.
Perhaps the biggest adjustment a lot of players, especially electric solidbody players, would need to make with this guitar is getting used to its shape and size, but that’s part of the fun. Given its quality, reputation and iconic name, this guitar is a great value for anyone looking to add something different to their collection, or wanting to find some inspiration with a different instrument that lends itself to alternative styles and ways of approaching music. And while the white is wonderful, the guitar is also available in a cherry blossom color. – RICK MOORE
Epiphone 50th Anniversary 1962 Crestwood Custom (Outfit) Electric Guitar
The Epiphone Crestwood Custom was a cool late 1950s and 1960s guitar that may have been Epiphone’s first real rock and roll axe. To celebrate the anniversary of the 1962 model, Epiphone has re-issued the guitar to the delight of both collectors and older players who want to re-live their glory days. And even though this is a bit of a nostalgia item, there’s no reason that it can’t be used by a working musician as well depending on the situation.
The guitar was popular among West Coast bands, but (though not necessarily the 1962 version) was most famously associated with rising garage idols like the MC5, though it can also produce a sound reminiscent of the Merseybeat bands or even some of Pete Townshend’s ’60s excursions. The pickups on this cherry-red beauty are alnico classic mini-humbuckers that cover the spectrum from a fairly warm sound on the front pickup, to a biting, almost high-end Tele sound when the back pickup is used with the right amp or pedal. The vibrato arm on the Tremotone tailpiece is a cool nod to the past, but the modern player needs to realize it isn’t the type of whammy bar for dive-bombing, and is more useful for the shimmers and vibrato twangs of surf or rockabilly players.
This guitar is a lot of fun to play and to mess around with to see how many cool sounds it will produce, or more accurately, to identify the cool sounds and artists it helped inspire. Very reasonably priced, this highly-functional piece of history comes with a period-correct gray case and a 1962 Collection certificate of authenticity. – R.M.
Roland AC-40 Amplifier
Finding the right amp for an acoustic guitar, one with the right sound and right capabilities that is portable, can be tough. But Roland, long known for good guitar, keyboard and bass amps, has solved that problem with its line of AC (Acoustic Chorus) amps, including the AC-40.
Roland’s AC-40, with a high-efficiency 35 watt (17.5 W + 17.5 W) stereo power amp, does a great job of delivering the sound of an acoustic guitar, and other acoustic instruments as well, through two 6.5” speakers. With a slew of cool features, this amp is great for songwriter nights, writing sessions, a live band setting, or jam sessions where an acoustic guitar might not match the volume of louder acoustic instruments like banjos. While it’s obviously an electronic device, the AC-40 can produce a sound that’s decidedly acoustic, depending on how the controls of the amp (and the guitar, if it has internal electronics) are run. And back to the name…the AC-40 delivers nicely on the moniker Acoustic Chorus, with a chorus setting on each individual channel and two different of chorus options, “wide” and “space.” The “wide” chorus setting is an effect that processes the signal internally, producing a sound not unlike the Boss CE-3 chorus of old (think Andy Summers’ sound with the Police). With the “space” setting, the chorusing effect is achieved in the air, where the chorused sound seems to mix outside the amp. – R.M.