For over twenty years under the watchful eye of Robert Godin, Godin Guitars has carved out its own niche, pushing the bounds of guitar design by creating innovative, well-made acoustic and electric guitars that have a voice of their own. Based in Montreal, Godin maintains six manufacturing facilities in Canada, intentionally kept small to create an intimate work environment that is evident in the “custom shop” quality of their instruments.
As a logical extension of their electric guitar operations, Godin has recently introduced the Richmond Guitar line, the designs of which strike a balance between sleek retro styling and true innovation with meticulous craftsmanship. The Richmond brand, named after the town in Quebec where these guitars are manufactured, currently features two offerings, the Dorchester and Belmont models. Both models feature unique, retro styling with fantastic playability, and come in a well-made Taupe tolex-covered hardshell case with “Alligator” accents—all at a very competitive price (both models can have street prices around $1,000).
The Belmont model solidly earns the Richmond moniker with its Gibson SG-meets-Danolectro styling, and offers a unique blend of design and electronics to make it a versatile, easy-to-play tone machine. The mahogany body features a beveled front edge along three quarters of the body, as well as a “tummy cut.” The generous, slabstyle rosewood fretboard is cantilevered to extend over the edge of the neck end at the 22nd fret. The neck has a matte finish with a smaller, C-size neck carve reminiscent of a sixties slim taper profile (a personal favorite) and a 12” fretboard radius. The finish and carve make for a very enjoyable playing experience, allowing the player to fly across the neck. The designers at Godin made a great call in combining a bolt-on design with what is considered to be a traditional set-neck wood configuration (i.e., a mahogany body/mahogany neck, 24-3/4” scale). The result is the best of both worlds, as there is a certain “snap” blended into a thick, midrange voiced unamplified tone that rock and blues aficionados will most certainly enjoy.
Like its sister Dorcehester model, the fretwork on the Belmont is executed flawlessly, and that combined with the “Ergocut” fretboard make the Belmont a joy to play. Full step bends are a breeze with the help of the expertly cut and honed Graph Tech nut and perfectly dressed medium jumbo frets. The neck plate is an interesting, four-screw shape with a rounded, offset design. The neck joint is stable and has a tight fit. Another interesting feature, which is shared with the Dorchester model, is that the headstock is “sliced” and fitted with opposing grain pattern to ensure neck stiffness. It is so meticulously executed, one has to look very carefully to pick up on this design specification.
The double-cutaway mahogany body has the devilish hint of a late-sixties SG and sits very comfortably in either a standing or sitting position. The Black Wash HG finish co-ordinates nicely with the guitar’s retro look, with a tastefully faded black finish that highlights the grain of the mahogany body and matching headstock. The finish is nicely contrasted with a single-ply, Nordic White pickguard, matching white truss rod cover and trio of chrome covered Seymour Duncan pickups that makes one want to break out the Lava Lamp and take in that sixties vibe. The chrome roller bridge and 14:1 Kluson vintage style tuning machines finish off the retro look. The guitar also features two black “top hat” style knobs (Volume and Tone) with silver tops and a black-tipped five-way switch.
The thick mid-range focused voice of the Belmont is matched with three stock Seymour Duncan pickups: two lipstick-style single coils (SLD-1) in the neck and middle position, and a ’59 model humbucker (SH-1) in the bridge. Overall, this seems to be a great design choice for the Belmont, as this electronics package provides a broad array of usable tones that bring a high degree of versatility. Fired up through a Carr Mercury, I could not find fault with the fabulous hard rock tones produced by the bridge setting. I have always been a fan of the SH-1 set in a mahogany body, and the added articulation offered by the bolt on design brought this classic combination to a new level. Position 4 (bridge/middle) was particularly memorable, as it added that greasy aftertaste to a classic rock tone, making it a natural choice for Texas blues/rock. Attention Billy Gibbons and all ZZ Top fans, grab your sombrero and try a Belmont.
The mahogany wood combination adds warmth to the chimey voice of the Alnico Lipstick pickups, which results in a girthy glassiness to their tone that really cuts through the mix—I experienced this when playing recently in live situation at a “weekend warrior” jam session. I was also able to pull off a convincing Dire Straits tone right into a Guns & Roses jam, just by flicking the selector switch and bringing up the volume knob. This guitar, like its sister Dorchester model sustains chords and notes very well on both clean and driven settings. Through a vintage blackface Fender Bandmaster driving a 2x10 Music Man cab, the Belmont was able to cop very usable and unique tones that would work very well in at rock, blues or country gig. The Belmont would be a logical choice for session players or working musicians who need a myriad of tones embodied in one guitar.
Hit Page 2 for our Dorchester review...
You’re seeking a well-made, versatile tone machine, or a great “one guitar/one gig” option.
You are firmly planted in the Nashville or California camp.