A testament to both reeves Gabrels’ and Reverend’s ongoing quest for refinement is the fact the team has partnered up for three signature guitars—the Reeves Gabrels Signature, the Spacehawk, and, now, the Dirtbike. In fact, only Pete Anderson—who has outdone all comers with six Reverend signature models—is currently honored with more machines than Gabrels. Okay, it’s not a competition, but there must be something in the Gabrels mojo that continues to drive viable instruments.
Perhaps a little background is in order, here. Michael Ross reviewed the Signature in the February 2011 issue, and he liked its resonant tone, excellent playability, and versatility within rock styles. I took on the Spacehawk in December 2014, and I gave it an Editors’ Pick Award for its killer Bigsby (with specially selected springs), tonal power, craftsmanship, and comfy playability.
The Dirtbike is Gabrels’ first single-pickup signature model—which corresponds with his desire for “freedom in the form of speed and power stripped down to its essentials”—and it also has a cool backstory of being inspired by his 1966 Schwinn Stingray and ’71 Honda dirt bike. I should note that when Reverend debuted the Dirtbike at Summer NAMM 2017, Gabrels somewhat exasperated the convention-center staff by riding a bona fide blue Stingray through the halls. That’s what you call “hybrid marketing.”
As a tonal engine, the Dirtbike doesn’t give up much to its dual-pickup stablemates, and I didn’t miss having a neck pickup at all. The Joe Naylor-designed Railhammer Gabrels signature pickup is aggressively articulate with a pleasing midrange attack that’s not shrill or too thin. The Master Tone is voiced to produce warm vocal-esque timbres when you tamp it down—though it’s certainly not as sensual as the low-end frequencies you’d get from a dedicated neck pickup—and the fabulously magical Bass Contour can dial in some very shimmery colors that are especially evocative for clean tones. Whether I went straight into my Vox AC30 for organic grit, or added a caterwauling fuzz pedal to the mix, the Dirtbike’s tone was always clear, taut, and rock solid. I don’t have tons of experience with Wilkinson tremolos, but, man, that thing is a blast to yank around, and it never seriously messed with my tuning. I should probably put a sticker on the guitar that says “Only Use When Appropriate,” because I may be having too much fun with it.
Like Gabrels’ other models, the Dirtbike is extremely comfortable to play. It’s light and well contoured to your body, and the neck feels smooth and fast. The Volume knob is within easy reach for doing volume swells, but it took a bit of a reach to do “faux wah” tricks with the Tone control. The Bass Contour is in another continent, so to speak, but I never had reason to adjust it on the fly. It wasn’t a surprise that the workmanship is excellent, as all Reverends I’ve played have been as well-crafted as a Bentley.
The Dirtbike may be inspired by Gabrels’ youthful tough-kid capers—my parents never let me near a Stingray or a motorcycle—but it’s a truly thrilling guitar to play, and there’s enough punk aesthetic with that single pickup to “cool up” even a former Boy Scout such as myself. Thank goodness for rock and roll, eh?
MODEL Reeves Gabrels Dirtbike
PRICE $1,199 street
NUT WIDTH 43mm, Boneite
NECK Korina (three-piece), set
FRETBOARD Blackwood Tek, 12” radius, 24.75” scale length
FRETS 22 jumbo
TUNERS Reverend Pin-Lock
BRIDGE Wilkinson WVS50 IIK tremolo
PICKUP Railhammer Reeves Gabrels Signature Bridge
CONTROLS Master Volume, Master Tone, Bass Contour
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario XL Custom .009-.046
WEIGHT 7 lbs
KUDOS Feels good. Plays great. Sounds super tough.