The Joe Bonamassa Signature Les Paul features aesthetic departures from a traditional goldtop that include black pickup rings and pickguard, and a black painted back rather than the traditional natural mahogany.
No Bones About the Sound
To test the guitar, I used a Fender Pro Junior amplifier and, in certain contexts, a Freyette S.A.S. distortion pedal. With this streamlined setup the Bonamassa sounded great, and it’s unlikely that a blindfolded listener would be able to identify it as a $700 import.
Overall, I find the combination of Gibson’s 1 and 2 Burstbuckers seen in the Historic Les Pauls to be a little smoother than the 2 and 3 package, but the latter really shone in the context of the Bonamassa model. On the neck pickup, it was easy to get a sustaining violin-like tone for blues-rock riffing and soloing. With the tone and volume rolled back, the pickup sounded just warm enough for jazz and worked nicely for some single-note bebop lines as well as some Wes Montgomery–style octaves and chord melodies. In a completely different direction, I was able to get a massive metal sound with an ample amount of clarity by tuning the guitar to drop D and dialing in a crushing amount of distortion on pedal, even with the Junior, a super compact amp.
When played in tandem, the neck pickup took a little of the edge off its bridge-position mate but didn’t blunt the attack. This was my favorite setting; it delivered excellent rhythm and lead tones
The bridge pickup had a nice bite and none of the muddiness sometimes associated with humbuckers. While slightly edgy on account of its higher output, it accurately reported every little detail and worked equally well for a cutting solo in A minor pentatonic, a bit of Brian Setzer–approved soloing, and some crunchy rhythm work in both standard and open G tunings. It sounded great for some slide playing in the latter, though the action was of course a bit low.
When played in tandem, the neck pickup took a little of the edge off its bridge-position mate but didn’t blunt the attack. This was my favorite setting; it delivered excellent rhythm and lead tones and, with adjustments on the S.A.S. pedal, proved impartial to genre.
Epiphone’s limited-edition Joe Bonamassa Les Paul is a smart, affordable guitar that borrows certain features—like a long neck tenon joint and Burstbucker pickups—from its more costly Gibson counterparts. It retails for a fraction of the price of a top-of-the-line Les Paul from Gibson’s Custom Shop but plays and sounds superb. And, given the guitar’s scarcity, it would make an excellent investment for the diehard Bonamassa fan. But whether you’re as Bonamassa loyalist or fan of great affordable Les Pauls, you should plan on moving fast if you’re interested. 1,000 guitars this good, this inexpensive, won’t last very long.
You want a nice Les Paul but can’t afford a USA or Historic model, or if you’re way into Joe Bonamassa.
you only play American-made guitars or you’ve got a stable of Historic Les Pauls.