REVIEW > GIBSON
finish. It’s a cool look that, again, softens
some of the flash of the chrome and custom
color. Both the Kluson Deluxe tuning buttons and the Vibrola vibrato grip are crafted
from pearloid, lending yet another classic
and almost delicate touch that compliments
the color scheme beautifully.
Unlike SG Standards, which have matching body and neck finishes, the Tweedy’s
mahogany neck has a natural, not-quite-sat-in, not-quite-glossy finish that’s a nearly perfect compromise between the two. The silky
feel compliments the early-’60s profile neck,
and the 1.695" nut width creates a string
spacing that’s both spacious and fast. The
natural finish also gives the Tweedy a little
extra dose of Scandinavian design flavor that
tempers the flashier aspects of the guitar.
to hear audio clips of the guitar
SG because the neck pickup sounded like
sludge, the Tweedy might have you thinking twice. The neck pickup makes a great, if
unexpected, match for jangly arpeggios and
funky percussive vamps.
In general, the interplay between the
BurstBuckers, the Tweedy’s mahogany construction, and the lively and metallic Vibrola
translates to a little less attack and sustain. But
this also means the Tweedy is both harmonically rich and a little more succinct, qualities
that yield a lot of voices and character.
The volume pots have great range and
are essential to making the most of the
BurstBuckers’ sonic palette—especially on
the bridge pickup—if you’re playing anything
other than pedal-to-the-metal rock. Backing
off the volume knob a touch is great for tight,
concise, and defined Revolver-era Harrison
tones—particularly if you run the guitar
through an amp with tight, natural compression, like an AC30, or a smaller Fender amp
with a little pedal compression and an aggressive treble setting. But you can also extract a
nice range of Telecaster- and quasi-Strat-like
tones, depending on your pick attack and
where you set the volume knob.
Backing off the tone just a touch and
moving within the higher third of the
volume range conjures the magical biting
clarity of Jerry Garcia’s ’69-era tones, or
Dickey Betts honey-sweet sting with just
a hint of single-coil grit. Switching to the
neck pickup grants access to the softer
realms of Garcia and Betts’ SG tones—like
the beautifully spacious and spacey textures
Many Shades of SG
It’s not hard to make the Tweedy SG bark
like an SG should. Sporting alnico 2 mag-
nets, the guitar’s BurstBucker 1 pickups
are about the closest thing Gibson has to
’59-vintage PAFs in sound and specifica-
tion, and when you crank them up in
front of a wide-open blackface Deluxe, the
Tweedy growls and sings depending on
your pick attack and pickup combination.
The bridge pickup is both bright and full,
though not quite as rotund as a Les Paul. In
fact, chords played with the volume and tone
wide open can have a sort of brashness and
a not-unpleasant rasp that you can probably
chalk up to the Maestro tailpiece, which
transfers vibration less directly to the mahog-
any body and adds a bright-ish resonance.
The neck BurstBucker is also tinged with
a touch of brightness—again probably helped
in no small part by the Vibrola and mahogany body—that makes the Tweedy a lot less
muddy and somber in the neck position. If
you’ve ever walked away from a Les Paul or
from the opening minutes of “Dark Star”
or “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.” In this
context, the softened attack that you get
from the Vibrola is less pronounced, but
the unique, ringing harmonic characteristics
of the system give the familiar, fat PAF tone
a more bell-like quality. Similar settings
work for jazz maneuvers, and rolling back
the tone knob gives you a smooth voice for
octave and more complex chords. You won’t
mistake this sound for an L- 5, but it’s a nice
compromise between traditional Gibson
rotundity and a solidbody’s high-end detail.
The Vibrola is good for a lot more
than adding a harmonic twist to the SG’s
time-tested sonic signature, though it’s by
no means a system without drawbacks.
It’s challenging to keep in tune, it makes
resting your hand behind the bridge difficult, and it took a few adjustments of the
vibrato arm’s mounting screw to keep the
arm from squeaking when moved back and
forth. Though the Vibrola is impractical for
deep whammy moves, or even Ventures-style chord bends you can pull with ease
on a Jazzmaster, it’s beautifully effective for
feathering chords and the John Cippolina/
Fillmore ’68-style quick vibrato that Tweedy
peppered his leads with over the last several
years. This unit has a lively, bouncy feel that
works particularly well if you use a hybrid-picking or fingerstyle technique.
Pros: Will contend for the prettiest guitar on the block.
Interesting tone palate that deviates from SG convention.
Cons: Vibrola is tough to keep in tune.
BurstBuckers can be brash when wide open.
Gibson Jeff Tweedy Signature SG ’ 61, $1,699 street, gibson.com
Dashing, well-dressed, and a welcome departure from SG convention, the Jeff Tweedy
SG is the kind of knock-yer-socks-off gorgeous instrument that inspires you to pick it
up and play. But it’s doubly inspiring once
you plug it in. Like any good SG, it’s a blast
to play, with a desert runway worth of fast
fretboard that invites slashing chord rhythms
and fleet-fingered leads in equal measure.
It also does just about everything you
want an SG to do, from driving a fuzz into
a glorious scuzzy frenzy to lending muscle
to Chicago blues moves. It’s the interesting
altered and—depending on your perspective—
enhanced tone palate provided by the interaction of mahogany body and Vibrola, as well as
the musical and quirky aspects of the Vibrola’s
performance that make this guitar substantially
different. And if you can get past the notion
that you may have to use your tuner with a
bit more frequency if you put the Vibrola to
work, the beautiful—and beautifully playable—Jeff Tweedy SG will reward you with a
unique and wide spectrum of sonic color.
PREMIER GUITAR JUNE 2012 147