Echopark Ghetto Bird
Price: $6,800 (as reviewed)
You know you’re holding something special when the guy who previously borrowed your review guitar was none other than Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry, who apparently used this very Echopark Ghetto Bird – officially called Ancient Sinker Redwood Case Study #002 – for some recent recording work.
Echopark luthier Gabriel Currie makes high-end guitars that trade frills for exceptional materials and build quality. The Ghetto Bird, at its core, is a simple rock-and-roll machine with a body design that sits somewhere between a Gibson Firebird and a late-’70s RD Artist. The guitar has a custom three-toned Dusk Burst finish in nitrocellulose lacquer.
Our test Bird had an amazing figured/bookmatched redwood top that was carved from wood from ancient trees harvested from the bottom of Mendocino Lake, and a one-piece mahogany body with “tuned” chambering. For the neck, Currie used a 200-year-old piece of reclaimed Honduran mahogany. The fingerboard is old-stock Brazilian rosewood, while the headstock plate is bookmatched redwood and the nut is cut-and-polished bison bone. The pickguard is nitrate tortoiseshell.
The Ghetto Bird has a 245/8″ neck scale and a 12″ fingerboard radius with 22 frets of Jescar 55090 fretwire. One particularly cool feature is the pre-war-style open-gear tuners with an engraved nickel finish. Not only do they look classy, but they hold the tuning rock solid. The wraparound tailpiece is a TonePros AVT2 in hand-aged nickel with long steel bushings, and the control knobs are NOS Daka-Ware. Electronics include 500k CTS custom-taper pots, a Switchcraft three-position toggle, and an Asteron 047 vintage “paper in oil” tone cap. Even the strap buttons grab attention – in this case, 1959-style buttons in aged nickel. Finally, the Ghetto Bird’s PAF-style and Firebird-style mini-humbucker pickups are from Echopark’s Rose Series, custom-wound and etched by Rob Timmons.
In the hand, this Ghetto Bird is nicely balanced with a light, comfortable body (thanks to the weight-relieving chambers). The guitar has a big ol’ neck – like a ’50s Les Paul Junior – but is easy to grab and dig into.
Plugged in, the Ghetto Bird screams for rock and roll. Even without the Joe Perry connection, the guitar loves all sorts of bluesy, gnarly riffs and ’70s-style string bends. The redwood top imbues the mahogany with a little Fender quack, but thanks to the humbucker and the mini, there’s no 60-cycle hum – just a nice bit of twang on top of the ’bucker bang. From clean to slighty gritty to over-the-top crunch, the guitar is a blast to play, really loving the dirty tones, in particular. One would be hard-pressed to find a rock player who would not love this guitar’s feel and tone.
Granted, the Ghetto Bird comes at a premium price, but the materials are top-notch and every detail is meticulous. Its etched pickup covers are particularly sexy and the combination of a full-sized humbucker with a mini-humbucker is noteworthy. It’s a great rock-and-roll pairing, especially in conjunction with the properties of the mahogany and the redwood. The resulting tones bring to mind Leslie West, Rick Derringer, Mick Ronson, Perry and Brad Whitford, Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner, and other heroes of the classic-rock epoch. A big thumb’s up to Gabriel Currie for capturing the spirit of rock and roll, and for adding cool vintage touches like a wraparound bridge and open-gear tuners to seal the deal. This is some fine guitar building.
This article originally appeared in VG October 2013 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.