Nick Jennison reviews the Jared James Nichols "Blues Power" Les Paul Custom. Epiphone's latest signature model in partnership with Gibson Brand Ambassador and blues-rock powerhouse that hails from Les Paul's hometown. The Jared James Nichols "Blues Power" Les Paul Custom features classic Les Paul Custom styling and cosmetic appointments and a stunning Aged Pelham Blue finish. The brand new JJN P90B pickup in the bridge position ensures righteous tone and hum-free performance.
When you think of Jared James Nichols, the words that probably spring to mind are "plays without a pick." While this is true, it's a little like thinking of Eddie Van Halen as "the tapping guy" or Zakk Wylde as "the pinched harmonics guy - an oversimplification. It's easy to fixate on a single aspect of an artist's identity and miss the big picture. JJN's playing is powerful, raw, dynamic and nuanced - words that also describe the latest iteration of his signature Les Paul.
The "Blues Power" Les Paul is the third version of the JJN signature model, following on from the Old Glory and the Gold Glory, but it's far from just a palette swap. The hefty '50s neck profile, wraparound bridge and single P90 configuration haven't changed, but the pickup itself has, with the new Seymour Duncan JJN Silencer.
Now, noiseless P90s are, to put it kindly, a mixed bag. They often lack the character and grit that make P90s so special and wind up sounding like a wishy-washy version of a humbucker. The Fishman Fluence Greg Koch signature models are the best I've heard to date, but I've never come across a passive, noiseless P90 that sounds as good as this one. The product of countless revisions and lengthy R&D, the silencer is full of midrange gravel and sparkling high-end bloom, but also rolls off to a glorious "chimey" clean with the guitar's volume control. It's super dynamic and touch-responsive, with a massive range of tones available - if your touch is good enough to coax them out, that is. What's interesting is that it's not a completely noiseless pickup: according to Jared, it eliminates "about 80% of the noise". Certainly enough to make high gain sounds whisper quiet in even the most challenging environment, but perhaps not killing all of the noise is what allows the silencer to retain that great P90 character.
Another new addition is the inclusion of Grover Rotomatic locking tuners. While this may seem a little "belt & braces" on a stoptail guitar, these tuners are rock solid, and not only speed up string changes, but also offer an extra level of tuning stability for big bends and wide vibrato - some of the hallmarks of Jared's style. They also add a little extra mass to the headstock, which some people believe adds sustain. You're free to make of that what you like, but they do feel like they're helping with the guitar's balance, too.
Lastly, there's the finish. For my money, Pelham Blue is the coolest standard colour Gibson and Epiphone do, and it looks gorgeous on this guitar. There are hints of teal and green, but in some light, it's almost "primer grey". It's also a very nice-feeling "matte" finish — like a satin guitar that's been played smooth.
The "Blues Power" Les Paul is not only a very worthy successor to the previous JJN signature guitars but also the best sounding and (in my opinion) best looking of the bunch. The new Silencer P90 elevates what was already a very good guitar to another level, both in terms of tone and functionality, and the fact that it comes in at under a grand with a semi-hardshell case is bonkers. If you're a player with the guts to pull off a single pickup guitar, this is one that should definitely be on your radar!
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