We originally reviewed the Hamer Talladega back in December of 2007, really liking what it had to offer – a jewel-like nitrocellulose lacquer finish, “56 V” neck profile, 25.5” scale length, gorgeous flame maple top, ‘bucker-sized P-90- inspired pickups and an old-school Sustain Block bridge. The review also featured a quote from the Talladega’s most ardent supporter, Greg V. “Its comfortable, vintage- feeling neck shape and cool tonal variety wrapped up in a sleek artful design inspires me to feel and play.” So imagine our surprise when Jol and the rest of the gang at Hamer introduced us to the Talladega Pro prototype during a recent visit to the Hamer workshop. We were having a hard time trying to figure out what was wrong with the original that warranted developing a new, less amateurish version.
It turns out that the culprit is none other than Greg V. himself. See, the Pro is actually what the original version was intended to be, but Jol sought out Greg’s input, with the LP Special-meets-Tele Talladega being the result. The Pro is actually closer to Jol’s original vision – a humbucker-equipped, mahogany and maple-bodied axe for Tele junkies. To that end, Hamer has built yet another guitar inspiring us to “feel and play.”
" - whether due to the clarity offered by the extended scale length, the pickup design, bridge or one or more combinations of the three - I was greeted with one of the warmest, fattest, yet most defined neck humbucker tones I've ever encountered..."
The Pro brings quite a few unique features to the table that set it apart from its older stablemate, not the least of which is Hamer’s first foray into the realm of traditional control layouts. Having previously taken their cue from vintage Vs and Explorers with a three-in-line, volume-volume-tone layout, the Pro features volume and tone knobs for each pickup in a diamond-shaped pattern along with a pickup selector switch residing on the top bout, although, to be honest, I was too busy freaking out over the Pro’s combination of wrap-around bridge/tailpiece with humbuckers to initially notice – Jol had to point it out to me. Another visual cue that sets the Pro apart is the ivoroid fretboard binding, absent from the earlier Talladega. Additionally, the Pro features a mahogany neck, as opposed to maple on the previous model. Our sample arrived with a beautiful Washed Ic Tea 'burst tastefully setting off the abundant, three-dimensional flame.
When picking up the Pro for the first time, I was struck by the neck’s mellower V profile, compared to the pronounced sharpness of the earlier Talladega. The Pro’s business end feels more like the handful of V-shaped necks that snuck out of Gibson in the late-fifties than those shipped by Fender in the mid-fifties, offering up more girth as well. Typical of Hamer, the Pro sported low action – 3/64” at the low E, 1/16” at the high E – measured at the twelfth fret and .003” relief, measured at the eighth fret with a straight edge. The reclaimed, estate ivory nut was cut to perfection and the .010 gauge D’Addarios were intonated really well, particularly when taking into account the non-compensated, wrap-around Tone Pros bridge. Kudos to Connecticut for the killer setup.
Plugged in, the Pro immediately gave up a fat yet delightfully bitchy supernatural snarl via the bridge pickup. Here the Pro shows its Les Paul-inspired roots the most, capably delivering the “air” and chunk for which good LPs are known. When switching to the neck pickup – whether due to the clarity offered by the extended scale length, the pickup design, bridge or one or more combinations of the three – I was greeted with one of the warmest, fattest, yet most defined neck humbucker tones I’ve ever encountered. With the tone controls wide open, both pups delivered that cool, swelling Peter Green thing without much effort, simply needing a good tube amp and a smidge of overdrive or boost to get there. In this instance, in addition to the dynamics, the tones from either or both pickups combined weren’t too far off from Mr. Green’s iconic, Fleetwood Mac-era sound. Having spent some quality time with the previous iteration of the Talladega, the Pro’s prowess here came as a bit of a surprise. Where the earlier design skewed more towards a Tele gently dipping its toe into Gibson waters, the Pro has gone and jumped right in, and, by doing so, has positioned itself as the premier gateway drug to LP-inspired flavors for the terminally Tele afflicted. In this guise, there is so much to like about this guitar that I’ll shut up for fear of being called a shill and move on.
Rolling back the respective volume knobs cleaned things up as suspected with a little surprise thrown in – with both pickups engaged, leaving one full up while rolling the other back allowed balancing them as usual until getting down to two or so on the unmarked knobs. Then, both pickups began tapering together, with the volume control acting as a master and eventually shutting them both down. This occurs with either volume control, courtesy of the old-school, Gibson-style wiring scheme featuring Sprague Orange Drop caps. The tone controls behaved accordingly, not offering much along their travel, instead going from tone full on to full off from about three to four on the knob. The sound with the controls fully engaged was delightful and completely usable – it simply lacked range, instead seeming like a comparatively subtle on or off proposition, just like the old days. Cleaned up with the tone rolled back and the neck pickup engaged, it delivered some doable uptown blues and jazz licks, but this isn’t that guitar, unless your ideal jazz tone is epitomized by the late, great Sonny Sharrock. The Talladega Pro is a rock n' roll guitar, plain and simple.
The Final Mojo
The Talladega Pro more than manages to surpass the high expectations set by its older sibling’s achievements. If you’re a Fender aficionado and switching between different scale lengths gives you the willies, the Talladega Pro could handle your humbucker-flavored chores with aplomb. If you’re just looking for a LP variant, give it an audition. I really think the stop-tailpiece/humbucker combination is sorely underrated. If you’re simply a Hamer fan, I can’t see how you couldn’t love the Talladega Pro. It exudes the same vibe as the Sunbursts and Specials from the past and, like them, is full of piss and vinegar – albeit a more grown-up, three-dimensional kind.
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you are a country boy looking for some "bucker" tones.
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