Many of us still blindly swear by the American marque, forgetting that some of the world’s finest luthiers hail from this side of the pond. With a small factory just outside Manchester, Gordon Smith guitars is almost a British institution. As one industry insider once remarked, “they are to Britain what Gibson is to America.”
We took a look at their Classic T, which is modelled on Fender’s Thinline Telecaster (as used by Bill Frisell). It comes with a single ‘f’ hole and chambered body and looks every bit like the original, except for a slightly more slinky headstock and a shallower return on the upper front bout. But the Classic T isn’t a copy and you’re unlikely to be able to select one off the shelf at your local music store, because Gordon Smith instruments are made to order (order to delivery – approx six months).
Our particular instrument was beautifully balanced, with a one-piece maple neck and fretboard, Grover style machines, a brass nut (standard GS) and 22 jumbo frets. We’re usually wary of satin lacquers applied to guitar necks, but this ‘C’ shape was as smooth and sweet as you like. With a heel plate and four screws it fitted neatly into the Poplar body which has a standard Telecaster type control plate with 3 way switch together with tone and volume knobs and a bridge plate with individual sprung saddles. The two “in house” single coil pickups are set in the standard Telecaster positions and a black 3-ply scratchplate completes the picture.
Looks, as they say, are fine, but what sort of sounds are we getting here and how does this baby play? The quick answer is, forget that Fender, the Classic T is in a league of its own. The grunt, edge and punch is all there – but there’s more. The Classic T delivers amazing clarity and there’s an incredible transparency to the sound that is combined with an extraordinary depth and width and an ability to achieve massive sustain even at normal amp settings. The action on our particular instrument was finger light with barely a whisker at the 12th fret – even one John Abercrombie would have been impressed. String tension was perfect and the tuning stability was excellent. So if you need reminding just how versatile a Telecaster can be, try the Classic T – it blew us away. (DG) For more go to www.gordonsmithguitars.co.uk