What should I Buy?
Blues gear hasn’t been this affordable since the Great Depression...
I’ve been playing my 90s Gibson Les Paul Standard through an old Peavey Classic for a few years now. I love my setup but recently I’ve developed this itch to get back to basics with my blues playing. I’m looking for a way to nail some authentic early-blues tone, you know, for a bit of the old Delta fingerpicking and 50s Chicago stuff. I’m not ready to commit big bucks to this thing yet so what do you recommend? J Rios, via email
You can pretty much play the blues on just about anything. Lest we forget, Muddy Waters’ first slide ‘guitar’ was a length of wire attached to the wall of his shack and played with a rusty old bolt. That said, if you’re looking for something a tad more portable, there’s no end of affordable ways to spend your nights belting it out like Robert Johnson. Just keep away from the tainted whisky… Here’s a trio of options that should see you right.
1. Gretsch G9511 style 1 single-0, £290
Part of the Roots Collection, the G9511 nails your classic image of a tough, no-frills, smallbodied Delta blues acoustic that could survive being thrown into a moving boxcar. We know... these days it’s more likely to find itself on the back seat of a Toyota Prius but the Single-0’s diminutive solid spruce/laminated mahogany body helps it sound, look and feel like an authentic blast from the past.
2. Vintage V5000sB-12 statesboro, £549
Designed with the input of Brit blues aficionado Paul Brett, the Statesboro is based on the Stella guitar played by Delta icon Blind Willie McTell in the 1930s. Yes, it has 12 strings but it’s remarkably easy to play, happily accommodates alternative tunings, and looks the absolute business. A Fishman Rare Earth pickup-equipped version (pictured) will set you back another 200 sheets.
3. Epiphone Inspired By “1966” Century, c£449
While Epiphone’s jazz box Century model was born in the 1930s, the ’66 has the later thin body profile. That said, the laminated maple construction allows for a decent level of acoustic volume, yet what draws us to this model is the P90 pickup. This time machine takes you from the Delta to the early days of primal electric Chicago blues. Add a fuzz box and you’re in the house that Jack White built.