Part of the seasonal cheer around GP Central a couple of months back was being astounded, humbled, and inspired by Brian Setzer’s ferocious playing on his Rockin’ Rudolph album. But while it seemed unlikely we could entice Setzer to perform at our holiday party, we could ask his Signature G6120 Nashville to make the scene.
It was a decent stand-in. After all, Setzer doesn’t just put his name on these guitars, he works closely in their development and utilizes his fabulous collection of vintage Gretsches as benchmarks. For example, according to the Gretsch website, the trestle bracing on the Nashville was modeled after Setzer’s favorite ’59 in order to produce increased sustain and a denser feel.
There’s lots of care taken with the rest of the construction, as well. The hardware and finish are superb. No rattles, paint overruns, rough frets, loose knobs, or sloppy internal woodwork were noted. In addition, unlike some of the company’s more delicate vintage models, this Gretsch is made to be abused on stage and handled rough, whether you tour nationally or toss gear into your backseat for local gigs. The Brian Setzer Nashville feels as durable and resilient as a Ford F-250 Super Duty, and two months of being pummeled by me on various stages didn’t faze it, wreck it, or compromise its ability to stay in tune. (And we’re talking extreme Bigsby mistreatment here.)
I enjoyed playing this beast, but I dig hollowbodies, so I’m used to the girth, some hard-to-reach controls, and limited access to the higher frets. If your last signature guitar was an Ibanez Steve Vai model, however, the Brian Setzer Nashville may toss a few unwelcome surprises your way. Still, the neck feels easy to play, and if Setzer himself is any indication, you can definitely unleash the shred.
The Nashville has a somewhat idiosyncratic Tone control—a 3-way Master Tone Selector switch at the upper bout that provides a lowend boost (rear/up position), a flat response/circuit neutral (middle), and a high-frequency roll-off (front/down). It’s actually a cool system that allows quick sonic adjustments—especially for those who never touch their guitar’s Tone knobs in the first place. Want a little more body to a riff or solo? Switch up and—Bam!—it’s there. Bridge pickup a bit too bright for a part? Flip the switch down to tame the highs.
For the most part, I kept the switch in the neutral position, because the TV Jones Brian Setzer Signature pickups are absolute dreams. Depending on the pickup-selector position and your amp and pedals of choice, these babies can sound feral, warm, punchy, shimmery, fat, or lush. No matter what sound you’re rocking, string-to-string articulation is exceptional. The Nashville may look like a retro, rockabilly twang machine—and it is—but it’s also a guitar that can produce beautiful jazz timbres, blitzkrieging punk sounds, hefty classic-rock tones, and even some funky, R&B-style skanks. I played a couple of loud, high-energy shows with it, and unwanted feedback was not a factor. It would “sing” a little if I took my hand off the strings too long, but there was no objectionable howling or screeching. When I wanted soaring, sustained, and vibey feedback, all I had to do was stand closer to my Vox AC30 and work the Bigsby for some very musical and exciting noises.
If I didn’t need food, sleep, or gainful employment, I could play this thing 24/7 and be a very happy camper. The only bummer about today’s Gretsches is that they’re expensive little jewels. But if you can save up the bucks, these retro beauties bleed rock and roll. The G6120 Brian Setzer Nashville ups that ante even further by delivering modern, vintage, and versatile tones with attitude to burn.
G6120 BRIAN SETZER NASHVILLE
Price $3,499 street
NECK Maple, U shape, set
FRETBOARD Ebony, 24.6" scale
FRETS 22 medium
TUNERS Schaller M6 Locking
BODY Laminated maple
BRIDGE Adjusto-Matic with pinned rosewood base, Bigsby B6CB vibrato
PICKUPS Two TV Jones Brian Setzer Signature
CONTROLS Three Volume (Neck, Bridge, Master), 3-way pickup selector, 3-way Master Tone selector
FACTORY STRINGS D'Addario NPS, .011-.049
WEIGHT 7.45 lbs
KUDOS Sounds awesome. Versatile tones. Can take a lickin’. Excellent playability.