'L' style body
For full description see below
The Gibson L-1 was one of the first guitars to be produced by the venerable US guitar firm, featuring in the very first price lists in 1902. Alister's version takes its inspiration from a later incarnation of the guitar that was produced between 1926 and 1930 and famously featured in the only studio portrait of blues legend Robert Johnson. This guitar was a very small bodied flat top instrument with a quick attack that responded very well to fingerstyle playing, and has been a favourite of blues enthuiasts searching for that classic delta sound.
Alister's version strikes a balance between capturing the best qualities of the original with some features that make it a little more versitile than the original. Most obviously, as the 1926 L-1 was Gibson's first foray into conventional flat top designs, the bracing patterns used on the originals were somewhat experimental, starting out with a system dirived from the earlier archtop version and gradually evolving towards a delicate, unscalloped X pattern by the end of the decade. For the recreation Alister decided that rather than copy an original it would be better to work on a scalloped X pattern of his own that would capture the sound he wanted from the guitar, so the replica has an Atkins bracing pattern.
Also updated is the scale length, which is a conventional 24 3/4" scale rather than the original 24 1/4". Lastly, this particular L-1 has been upgraded to Rosewood back and sides rather than Mahogany.
Otherwise the guitar has a number of appointments to suggest a vintage instrument. This is Alister's first natural finish L-1, all others being sunburst, and we were able to provide Alister with an original 1926 L-1 for him to experiment with colour matching and to copy the original rosette. We're pleased to confirm it has the perfect pumpkin hue! The pyramid bridge is a nice touch and Alister's own design headstock (technically borrowed from Gibson's Kalamazoo headstock of the 1930s) works well with the design.
The 45mm nut and fairly deep C profile makes the L-1 a comfortable guitar for fingerstyle, and this example has some lovely marble flecking in the bound ebony board. The elegant French heel helps comensate for practical limitations of the 12 fret body join. The nickel Kluson single line tuners are a bit of a push for historical accuracy but they work very smoothly.
Tonally the L-1 has a fast, snappy attack and is very responsive to changes in playing dynamic. It responds particularly well as a fingerstyle guitar. There is a pleasing tightness to the bottom end and the guitar sustains well for its small size. The Rosewood back and sides make it a little smoother than we would expect from Mahogany examples of this type of guitar, and together with the scalloped bracing there is a hint of an 0 size Rosewood Martin in there alongside the expected Gibson qualities. It has a richness and sophistication to the sound that is beautiful for English folk and softer Joan Baez type finger picking as well as being able to handle the expected blues repertoire.
Inspired by the original Gibson guitar of the 1920s and 30s most famously associated with Robert Johnson, the Atkin L-1 combines the unique character of this special instrument with updated playability and build quality. Following the original body shape closely, a 12th fret neck joint means that the guitar’s vintage-style rectangular bridge sits right in the middle of the rounded lower bout, really driving the soundboard for a rich, powerful tone. There’s all the bark and bite that blues players love, but a whole range of other shades too that will please traditional players in every genre. A modified X-braced pattern provides the response and sustain that modern players expect, while the bound mahogany neck – available in both 43mm and 45mm nut widths – provides the kind of playability that bluesmen of the 1930s could only dream of.