I Like Odd Guitars
My Wife generously got this guitar for me for my birthday, here’s a little review.
The feature set on this Malaysian honey is a little er, twisted -just the way I like it. Gibson style controls, semi-hollow, mixed-woods, set-neck, P90’s. It is a mongrel of a guitar, heretical for genre fascists or Fender-fetishists. I looked hard at my guitar collection and saw a very tiny but nagging absence in my tone arsenal: P90’s. That got me looking for pretty-much every guitar that has ever featured P90’s. It came down to an SG Special and the JA-90. At the end of the day, the JA-90 was weird enough (yet not too weird) to pique my curiosity. Besides I already have an SG Standard.
The guitar came essentially perfect, I found one little burr on the 20th fret that came off with my fingernail. That’s it. I got the one that has the black translucent finish and I’ve got to tell you that the pictures do not do it justice. This is an absolutely stunning finish. Mine has streaks of copper and purple in it, as well as a deep eye-popping grain that you can almost climb into.
So it looks good, how does it sound? Big and bold. The Duncan P90’s are noisy, but that is part of the vibe right? It is the small price you pay for anti-social distortions and thrumming naughty cleans. Not a huge amount of tonal variety here, just ballsy bridge, aggressive middle, and weighty neck. Running this guitar into a good OD and bashing out some open E and A stuff reminds you why you wanted to rock in the first place. There is a very snotty attack to this guitar (the P90’s again) that is pointy without being piercing, that I just love. Conversely though, this guitar is also capable of some very sweet and mellow tones too. Rolling off the tone just a smidgen in the in-between position yields some really nice round yet clear chord tones and stringy single note articulation. Rolling off the tone further and switching to the neck PUP gets you into Pat Martino territory.
I’ve used this guitar on several gigs already and it has been solid as a rock. Great tuning stability and it took my 11’s with very little adjustment required. Lowered the bridge a tad, 1/8th of a turn on the truss rod and I’m in business. I play in one band that tunes to E and another that tunes to Eb and the JA-90 doesn’t seem to mind a bit. It’s a new guitar though, so it needs to settle in for a decade…
Right off the bat I should fully admit that I expected this guitar to suck, I never buy guitars without playing them. So I figured it would show up and I’d find something wrong with it and it would go right back in the box and right back to Fender. Well, that didn’t happen, not even close.
I should also mention that this guitar is up against some serious competition. I own a Gretsch Silver-Jet, a Yammy Weddington Classic, a Yammy SG2000, a Gibson SG Standard, a CIJ Strat, yadda,yadda, yadda… Anyway, guitars that retail for at least twice as much. This modestly priced guitar has become my go-to guitar. I’m a little bummed that it doesn’t come with a case, not even a cheapo soft case. But I mention this while fully understanding that it helps Fender keep the price down on this really kick-ass-gitfiddle.
Odd guitars are cool.