Art Thompson39s Picks from Summer NAMM 2010

Publish date:
Updated on

Blackstar HT-Blackfire
Co-developed by Gus G, who is currently tearing it up with Ozzy Osbourne, the HT-Blackfire is a two channel, tube-powered distortion pedal aimed at metal players. Its Fire channel delivers a more classic high-gain classic distortion sound, while the Fury channel heads to the metal zone with ridiculous amounts of gain. That said, the pedal is very dynamically responsive and could be used for any style of music where a wide range of distortion textures are needed. The pedal has a durable finish that feel a bit like suede leather, along with an ISF control, Gain and Volume controls for each channel, and speaker emulation on the output.
For more information visit

Jack Deville Buzzmaster
Described as the "world's quietest high-gain fuzz pedal" the Buzzmaster ($250 direct) uses germanium transistors to deliver fuzz textures with enough gain range for anything from blues to metal. The tones I heard from the demo covered the spectrum from sweet and sustaining to massively buzzed, and the pedal is surprisingly quiet too, courtesy of Deville's Click-Less bypass circuit (available separately for user installation into other pedals), which provides relay-driven, noise-free switching.
For more information visit

Traveler Escape EG-2
The all-new EG-2 ($450 street), which come in a white finish, features a 25.5"-scale neck, a double-cutaway body, a pair of single-coil pickups, and a built-in headphone amp with selectable distortion. Above it is the Escape MK-II ($449 street), which is designed for acoustic-electric players and sports an L.R. Baggs Custom Element hybrid pickup. Both instruments are very compact, but they have the playing feel of standard instruments because of their full-sized necks.
For more information visit

Taylor GS Mini
Though designed to be compact and portable, the GS Mini ($678 retail) delivers a surprisingly big sound and has the playing feel of a larger guitar. Specs include a solid Sitka spruce top, African sapele laminated back and sides, and a 23.5"-scale ebony fretboard. Tuned to standard pitch, the GS provides excellent playability and is the perfect thing to take to the beach or on camping trips. And if you want to go electric, Taylor offers the optional ES-Go plug-in soundhole pickup for the GS Mini, which features quick, snap-in installation and comes with a pre-wired endpin jack that's super easy to install.

 Also available: the new Taylor designed V-Cable (price TBA), which is perfect when using the ES-Go pickup, as this unique cable features a Volume control on the end that plugs into the GS Mini's endpin jack “It’s brilliant and simple,” says Bob Taylor. “It allows anyone with a guitar but no volume knob to add a volume control. You can find it in the dark, you can turn your cable off to unplug noiselessly, and you can use it on any guitar you have.”

For more information visit

J. Backlund Design
Some of the spaciest looking guitars at Summer NAMM were these beauties by J. Backlund, which are available in four different styles and a variety of pickup options. The build quality and finishing of these instruments look to be top notch, so if you're game to sling something unique, you'll want to check them out.
For more information visit

Ernie Ball Gigbag Amp
The accessories team at Ernie Ball hit a homer at summer NAMM with the Gigbag Amp (price TBA), which not only gives your guitar the protection it deserves, but also features a built-in two-channel Marshall amp that allows you to jam along to whatever songs you like via its iPod/mp3 input. The case also doubles as a stand when the guitar is out. Very cool and clever!
For more information visit

Saint Blues 61 South
St. Blues makes some sweet guitars, and the nice playing 61 South ($970 direct) features a a 25.5"-scale one-piece hard-rock maple neck, a semi hollow mahogany body with a cherry burst finish and double binding, a nickel-plated Wilkinson WTB bridge with brass saddles, and a Kent Armstrong P-90 in the neck position and a tapped single-coil at the bridge. If you like the idea of a P-90-loaded T-style hybrid, the 61 Blues is a cool way to go.
For more information visit