THE FIRST THING I NOTICED ABOUTTHE PATRIOT DECREE WAS THE AMAZING CHERRY sunburst finish over a killer flame top. The look, coupled with the model name gave me visions of what Ace Frehley might play if he worked for Homeland Security. We’ve obviously seen these cosmetics before, so I was curious about how the PD would differentiate itself from the LP. Well, the Michael Kelly features a super-slick cutaway/neck heel that makes hitting high notes way easier than Space Ace ever had it. In lieu of a stop tailpiece, we have through-body stringing, which looks cool and gives you access to a gorgeous, tinkly harp sound if you pick behind the Tune-o-matic. Common wisdom says that this design also provides more resonance and sustain and, sure enough, the Patriot rings long, loud, and proud. Lastly, we have individual coil splitters for the two humbuckers— a great bonus that we’ll delve into in a moment. The neck has a super comfy profile with clean binding and nicely polished frets. The MK folks even went so far as to round off or “hotdog” the fret ends—my favorite way to dress frets and a rare bonus on an instrument in this price range. Nice! The nut is cut so that there is decent room before the outside strings get pulled off the edge of the frets, making vibrato on the high E much easier. This is a nice touch that far too many manufacturers overlook. The inlays look cool and unique, although a close inspection reveals some slight imperfections. The Grover tuners are another welcome feature and, again, somewhat surprising at this price. Thanks!
I got my Patriot act on through a Peavey Masterpiece 50, a Dr. Z Remedy, and a Mesa/Boogie Electradyne. Plugged into these great sounding amps, the PD’s bridge pickup clean tones were full and lively, with just the right amount of assertive rudeness. The neck humbucker sounds great—very clear and not wooly like some can get. It does smoky jazz flavors no problem, with very little need to roll back the tone control. In distorto mode, the bridge pickup rocks hard, with plenty of output and bite. It doesn’t clean up as much as I’d like when I turn down, and gets way too murky. I can’t, however, complain about the full-bore roar. The neck position is sweet and creamy. It can do the flutey thing if you roll back the tone knob, but I liked it best articulate and open. The treat for me was when I split the coils on the neck humbucker. This provided a funkier, brighter tone that was amazingly Stratty for an LP-style guitar. It made it so easy to dial in a meaty, fat tone on the bridge pickup without worrying about the neck tone being too dark, which is sometimes an issue for me. The coil splits also opened up all kinds of clean tone possibilities in the dual-pickup mode, because you can split either or both, and you can adjust the volumes. It adds up to a lot more flexibility than meets the eye.
I hereby decree that Michael Kelly has a winner with the Patriot Decree. I’m tough on guitars that borrow so heavily from traditional models. You better bring it if you’re going to flirt with a legend. They done brought it.
SPECSMichael Kelly Guitar Co., (859) 817-7100; michaelkellyguitars.com
MODEL Patriot Decree
PRICE $580 retail/ $400 street
FRETBOARD Bound rosewood with bones inlay
FRETS, 22 mediumjumbo
BODY Mahogany with flame maple top
PICKUPS Two Michael Kelly PAF-Plus humbuckers
CONTROLS Individual Volume and Tone with coil splitters
BRIDGE Tune-o-matic with throughbody stringing
FACTORY STRINGS N/A
WEIGHT 8.12 lbs
KUDOS Great look. Interesting take on a classic design. Great deal.
CONCERNS Tone gets murky when Volume control is turned down.