As the third Les Paul from Epiphone to wear Joe Bonamassa’s signature, this unique model comes on strong with an Inverness Green finish that Joe himself specified, mismatched gold “top hat” knobs as found on his favorite ’59 Standard, a Bigsby vibrato, brown Lifton-style case with pink lining, and a certificate of authenticity hand-signed by Joe himself. The flawless paint work and nickel-plated metal parts bring a high-grade vibe to the package, and while the blend of elements is likely to stir emotions among some LP fans, once you wrap a hand around that fat D-shaped neck (another element lifted from Joe’s ’59), and start enjoying the wide-ish polished frets and excellent setup, the 2015 JBLPS quickly becomes a mighty endearing guitar. Though our review model is on the heavy side at 9.6 lbs, it sounds acoustically resonant—the Bigsby gets some credit there whether used or not—and when amplified through a Mesa/Boogie Mark 5:25, a Grammatico Blackpool, or a BluGuitar Amp 1 (all running into a Mesa Mini Recto 1x12 cab), the guitar with its BurstBucker pickups delivered rotund tones that combined abundant top-end sparkle and a gutsy set of mids.
The non-potted pickups (which also have unpolished magnets) are a little microphonic, which is generally accepted to be a good thing if you’re seeking PAF-style tone, and their modest output helps keep them sounding defined and dimensional when pushing into high-gain amps or pedals. As you’d expect given the guitar’s construction—which includes a “deep set” gluedin neck joint—the JBLPS has the kind of voicing and sustain that makes it so fun to play with any level of distortion. It sounds good for old-school British blues, and when you jack up the grind it slides into feedback that can be easily controlled with your own vibrato and/or by angling it around in proximity of the speaker cabinet. The fourknob setup provides a lot of sounds, especially when both pickups are on, and it all facilitates the JBLPS’s ability to pump out fat, bright tones that sound cool when riffing on the low strings, or smooth, singing treble textures when you dig in on the high strings. The Tone pots are appropriately voiced to yield browner sounds, and the guitar’s slicey edge doesn’t disappear when you turn down the volume, which is nice. The slightly lower output of the neck pickup assists in keeping it from sounding too round or wooly when soloing, and also helps to make everything sound balanced when pairing it with the hotter bridge ’bucker. Despite not having any split-coil functions on the Tone controls, I didn’t miss them, as the JBLPS has range to spare and is neither short on snap or humbucker girth.
The 2015 Joe Bonamassa Les Paul Standard isn’t a replica of anything in particular, but it is a manifestation of a great guitarist’s preferences for certain vintage LP attributes. Bonamassa certainly walks it like he talks it when it comes to performing with valuable old guitars from his extensive collection, so if he wants to paint his latest signature model green, more power to him. In fact, as with everything else here, it’s just more evidence that Epiphone and Bonamassa wanted this guitar to stand out in every way possible. Well done!
2015 JOE BONAMASSA LES PAUL STANDARD W/BIGSBY OUTFIT
PRICE $799 street, includes Lifton-style hardshell case
NUT WIDTH 1 11/16"
NECK Mahogany, rounded-D profile, 1959 shape
FRETBOARD Rosewood, 24 3/4" scale, 12" radius
FRETS 22 medium-jumbo
TUNERS Grover 18:1 ratio
BODY Mahogany with carved hard-maple cap
BRIDGE Locktone Tune-o-matic with Bigsby B70 vibrato
PICKUPS Gibson USA BurstBucker 2 neck, BurstBucker 3 bridge
CONTROLS Dual Volume and Tone, 3-way switch
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario EXL110, .010-.046
WEIGHT 9.6 lbs
KUDOS A fine sounding and playing Les Paul. Top-notch quality.