St. Blues Scoundrel
Price: $1,898 (list)/$1,349 (street)
Intended as a versatile instrument for the player with a budget for just one boutique guitar, the St. Blues Scoundrel is a double-cutaway with a P-90 in the neck position and a humbucker in the bridge. There’s a bolt-on maple neck with maple fingerboard (also available in pau ferro), and the controls are on the lower bout Tele-style, minus the control plate. The trem is from Wilkinson, as are staggered tuners that enhance sustain by eliminating the string tree. If it seems like a mongrel mix, don’t be fooled – the Scoundrel is of fine pedigree thanks largely to the pickup configuration.
Both Kent Armstrong pickups are made for 24.75″ guitars. The Scoundrel, however, has a 25.5″ scale, like a Strat or Tele. In the bridge position, Armstrong’s JB humbucker offers a great combination of bite and body – both snap and twang like a Fender and the broader harmonic range of a Gibson. Overdriven, it’s tight and punchy. The neck position yields the warm tone of a classic P-90. With the Tone knob at its brightest, the P-90 is chimey; rolling the tone back a bit makes for a brown and slightly muted timbre, good for fat, long-sustaining melody lines or big rhythm beds.
St. Blues draws on the best qualities of these pickups for the middle position, where the tone is brassy on the top and ballsy on the bottom. Full chords bubble out of the amp in plump spheres. On single-note lines, the tone is very vocal-like. The middle position recalls Jimmy Page’s clean and shimmery electric (think “The Rain Song”) thanks to coil-splitting the humbucker and blending it with a coil-tap from the P-90 so you’re hearing a single coil from the bridge humbucker and a partially bypassed coil from the neck P-90. With so much character in that middle position, it’s inviting to explore what nuances can be brought out.
The “soft” C-shaped neck (10″ radius with nickel 6150 medium jumbo frets) is fluid and forgiving. The deep cut at the pocket allows for full access up the 22 frets. The bridge-position pickup blade runs close to the Volume pot, making it a bit tricky to flip with a pinky on the go, but the Volume is comfortably within reach for swells.
For all that it offers, the Scoundrel looks pretty unassuming. The review model had a matte finish over a soft Tobacco Burst (also available in Honeyburst, Delta Rust, and Blue Suede) with the nicely figured alder grain visible. But beware; small-batch production is the name of the game at St. Blues. It keeps quality high and players happy. The Scoundrel’s first run sold out fast. You might want to get on this puppy.
This article originally appeared in VG December 2014 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.