REVIEW: Gibson Les Paul Nashville Junior Double Cutaway
Gibson has released more variations on the Les Paul theme than most other companies can manage across their entire product line. From the highly tricked out Neal Schon model with Floyd Rose bridge and a sustainer pickup, to the simplicity of the 1957 Les Paul Junior Single Cutaway, there’s something for everybody in the Les Paul line. Personally I really dig the new Les Paul Axcess, but I’ve always had a fondness for Gibson’s Les Paul Junior guitars too.
The Les Paul Nashville Junior Double Cutaway shares many common features with the classic single cutaway model that was probably most famous in the hands of Leslie West and which formed the basis of Green Day front man Billy Joe Armstrong’s signature model, but it deviates from it in several distinctive and important ways.
The Nashville features the double cutaway Les Paul body style as introduced in 1958. The overall outline seems a little rounder than a regular Les Paul, partially an optical illusion caused by the almost symmetrical cutaways, which are smooth and rounded compared to the sharply bevelled horns of the subsequent double cutaway Les Paul model, which was introduced in 1961 and later renamed the Gibson SG.
The Nashville has a single dog-eared Gibson P-90 pickup, a rough and hardy matte satin finish, ebony fretboard, and a wraparound, non-adjustable, intonation-compensated tailpiece/bridge unit. The ‘Nashville’ element in the model name comes by way of the ‘Prairie Flower’ pickguard motif, which is borrowed from Gibson’s SJ-200 jumbo acoustic guitar, the model favoured by Pete Townshend of The Who.
The guitar is strung at the factory with Gibson Brite Wires gauged .010-.046. These strings have a bright, zingy treble which brings the best out of the P-90 pickup. The bass response of the guitar is tight and refined, and the high end seems to naturally compress when you pick hard, creating a sound that’s very well suited to recording because it practically masters itself. A little light overdrive brings out a sense of warmth, while ultra clean tones with a little spring reverb and compression sound authentically bluesy and swampy. Even more so with a bit of slapback delay. Crank up the gain and you’ll naturally increase the noise level too, as with any true single coil pickup, but this guitar is not designed to be smothered in distortion, and it’s at its sonic peak through a slightly overdriven rig. You could get a great modern rock sound from this guitar with noise gates and distortion pedals and stuff, but in a way that’s kind of an insult to its simplicity.
There’s something greatly liberating about playing a guitar with just a single pickup, and while there is a tone control for some degree of command over the sound, most guitarists will probably leave it untouched. Instead, you have to make the most of your picking and fretting techniques to get sonic variation out of the guitar, and in this respect it can help to make you a better player by forcing you to work for it.
Whether you need a guitar for country, blues, indie pop, vintage rock, punk, or even fusion styles, the Nashville delivers the tonal goods. It might not be the most obvious choice for these styles, but that’s part of its charm, and part of why it would be a great secret weapon in any guitarist’s bag of tricks.