Hamer Artist Vanguard Electric Guitar Review

Hamer Artist Vanguard Electric Guitar Review

Hamer Artist Vanguard

Depending on how you look at it, Hamer guitars has built their reputation as either the guitar world’s custom shop or its smallest production line. Whichever view you choose, the bottom line remains that Hamer produces a limited quantity of amazingly well-crafted instruments with unique custom details at (or below the cost of most generic “big name” manufactures. The Artist Vanguard is proof that the Hamer crew know what they are doing when it comes to their craft.

Hamer’s Artist series is based on their time-tested “uptown LP junior” design. A three-piece mahogany neck is contoured to classic Gibson proportions—well rounded, perhaps even plump—and fitted with a rosewood fretboard and 22 medium frets. The chrome hardware consists of Grover tuners, Straploc-ready strap pins and a Tune-O-Matic bridge and stop tailpiece. The mahogany LP Junior body has been upgraded with an arched top of mahogany rather than maple, which is usually found on Artist series guitars. A tuned resonance chamber beneath the top’s f-hole adds a touch of acoustic volume, and really goes to work when you plug the Vanguard in. More on that in a moment.

Rick Nielson’s checker-board Explorer aside, Hamer guitars typically sport conservative finishes. That’s certainly not the case with the Vanguard, which is done up in an outrageous Silver Sparkle reminiscent of Greatsch’s heyday, Hamer’s execution is, or course, flawless.

The Vanguard is outfitted with two Seymour Duncan P90s: an Sp-902N and a 3-B in the neck and bridge positions respectively. Each has its own volume control, and these become interactive with one another when the three-way toggle switch is in its center position. A master tone control completes the circuitry. Individually, the Duncan SP-90s have a chimey and well-defined output with just a hint of throaty clunk—a great tone for strong, majestic melodic lead lines or Keef-inspired chord wallops. With both pickups on, the Vanguard displays warm lows, detailed highs and gently scooped mids. Noise and hum are kept to a minimum with shielded paint in the electronics cavity.

The Vanguard’s resonance chamber doubtless helps the P-90s achieve such cool clean tones. But its functions becomes readily apparent once the volume and gain are turned up: the instrument boasts remarkably smooth sustain throughout its entire range, and once the woods starts dancing with some high-decibel sound pressure, notes come alive and ring forever. Rather than slip into upper harmonic feedback, the tone remains focused on the note’s fundamental, and all notes sustain with equal ease. The P-90s gave punch to the pick attack, making it sounds as if the guitar’s signal were split two separate amps—one for solid attack and another for fat sustain. An amazing experience from an amazingly versatile guitar.

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Tribute to Duane Allman & Berry Oakley

Duane Allman BrothersDuane Allman’s future looked blindingly bright in the fall of October 1971. The Allman Brothers Band had just seen the three years of hardcore touring pay off in fashion. Their third release, the live double album At Filmore East, had gone Gold, and both the band and Duane were being hailed as rock visionaries. Sessions for the Filmore follow-up, Eat a Peach, were going well in Miami, with sings like “Blue Sky” and “Little Martha” already in the trash, when the band took a break and returned to the their home in Georgia.

 

At dusk on October 29, shortly after he left the band’s “Big House” on his Harley Duane swerved to avoid a construction truck an was sent flying through the air. Following three hours of emergency surgery, he was declared dead, one month away from his 25th birthday. It was a stunning blow for the band, but they returned to the studio and finished Eat a Peach. It was released several months later “dedicated to a brother.”

 

Just over a year afterward, on November 11, 1972, while the band was recording Brothers and Sisters in Macon, bassist Berry Oakley was in a motorcycle accident eerily similar to Duane’s just three blocks from the site of the guitarist’s mishaps. Though he rose from the wreck and went home, seemingly unscathed, Oakley was rushed to the hospital within the hour, where he died of massive internal hemorrhaging. Again, the band staggered and carried on.

 

Oakley and Allman are buried side by side on a landing in the hilly Rose Hill Cemetery, a beautiful Civil War-era resting place where the band spent many a night hanging out and writing songs. Just around the bend lies the grave of Elizabeth Reed, in memory of whom Dickey Betts titled on of the band’s signature tunes.

 

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