Magazine article Guitar Player

Gibson SJ-200 Western Classic

Magazine article Guitar Player

Gibson SJ-200 Western Classic

Article excerpt

THIS DECKED-OUT, 6-STRING CADILLAC IS BASED ON A CUSTOM GUITAR that Gibson made at the request of country music/film star Ray Whitley in 1937. Whitley knew what he needed sonically and playability-wise from his "signature" guitar (the original now resides in the Country Music Hail of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee), and he obviously wanted a lot of bling on it too--a request that the Gibson craftsmen took seriously, as echoed by the cosmetics applied to this jumbo-sized reissue. Check the options list: The Western Classic sports four-ply binding on its "Tri-burst" premium AAA Sitka top and three-piece Indian rosewood back, multi-ply binding with a classy "birds beak" on the rosewood fretboard, graduated Mother-of-pearl block-style block position inlays, a "moustache" bridge with yet more pearl inlays, multi-layer pickguard, a lovely three-rope marquetry back stripe, gold-plated Waverly tuners with exposed gears, and a script "Gibson" logo and classic torch inlay (both rendered in pearl) on the headstock facing. Given all the time and effort it takes to do this kind of detail work, it's not surprising that Gibson builds less than 30 Western Classics per year.

The SJ-200's Tri-burst-finished, curly maple neck with walnut center strip is carved to a comfy D shape that sits very nicely in the hand. It feels more like the neck on a high-end archtop guitar, and the frets--while not mirror polished--are expertly attended to, with smooth, even crowns and beveled ends that feel almost non-existent as you slide your hand along the neck. Combined with a good setup and fairly low action, the playability is light and easy, and the absence of any fret buzzing is just icing on the cake. The string spacing proved equally comfortable for fingerpicking or flatpicking, and in a nod towards contemporary expectations, the SJ-200 guitar intonates well and sounds musically tuneful as you move around the neck. …

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