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Gibson J-200 1964

Matt's Collection

Good J-200s are not easy to find, even vintage ones. Often, the maple wood gives them an overly aggressive timbre, and few of them project their sound really well. The sound generally stays inside, with a very short sustain that does not encourage you to venture beyond strumming rhythm chords in the first three frets.

And then sometimes we come across a magical one that puts the others to shame and helps us to better understand why so many great musicians have chosen the giant from Kalamazoo as their preferred partner (beyond of course its undeniably cool look). A good J-200 really seems to breathe. It delivers the big volume you expect when you see its size, but without letting the bass notes overrun, thanks to the sharpness of the maple. When you are lucky enough to find that J-200, you should seize the opportunity. Especially when it has been preserved in magnificent condition for a guitar that turned fifty several years ago.

This one was in the Retrofret showroom in Brooklyn, and probably would not have stayed there long had it not come to live in France. Apart from the machine heads, it still has all its original parts, in an ideal state that is neither mint nor a relic: here again everything is a question of balance. As evidenced by the beautiful groove between the soundhole and the pick guard—worn into the wood by years of strumming picks—this J-200 has been played a lot, which probably also explains why it sounds so good. It was the workhorse of a Nashville session musician who used it for countless country songs heard on the radio. And this guitar is well-positioned to continue resonating its magical timbre for a long time to come.

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