One of the more overlooked and underrated guitar makers could be found in Booth 3084 at the NAMM 2012 Winter Show, with musicians Rick Vito and Pete Anderson in tow. Celebrating its 15th anniversary, Reverend had three of their models on display, continuing their impressive upward trajectory. Well-built and utilizing quality hardware, Reverends are priced well below the Gretsch and Ernie Ball six-strings that the company obviously aspires to emulate with much of their lineup.
This is particularly true of the 15th Anniversary Limited Edition Flatroc. Available in tobacco-burst or translucent turquoise finish, the Flatroc has found its way into the hands of musicians playing all manner of styles. Country, jazz, blues, rockabilly – all lend themselves to the thick-to-twangy sound produced by the Flatroc. Like good barbecue sauce, Reverend guitars make any cut just a little bit better than it might have already been.
The Bigsby bridge and the Revtone pickups bring enough grunt and sustain to this guitar that the player can wear it all night, regardless of where the set list leads. Reverend also keeps it simple with a single volume and tone knobs (plus Reverend’s staple contour knob, which floods the tone with church-sized depth) and a three-way switch. As far as the neck and fingerboard are concerned, many musicians compare the Flatroc’s playability to those of higher-end Fenders and G&Ls.
Another take on traditional powers is found in the Reverend Buckshot, a hot-pickup Nashville Tele clone that provides a little more gut-punch and a sharp, nasty high-side edge – both coming from the neck-position humbucker pickup. All of that is fine and good, but that’s not the variation on the Tele theme that Reverend brought to bear at NAMM this year, as demonstrated by Pete Anderson.
The Pete Anderson Series Eastsider is a pleasing fusion of the traditional Tele body but with three single-coil alnico pickups a la the Fender Stratocaster. The narrow chrome whammy bar adds to the Strat effect, only the glowing tones are emanating from a thick, satin-finish Korina body, with strings slung over stainless steel saddles and a graphite nut. The Eastsider rolls out the clean and classic tones (along with that buttery feel) that made everyone from Joe Strummer to Albert Collins fall in love with the Telecaster in the first place. Sound-wise, the triple-alnico setup produced distinctly different tones than its Buckshot cousin, and possibly possesses even more crossover appeal.
Reverend’s final NAMM offering falls back less on traditionalism; the Sensei RA includes some innovations bordering on the exotic, which is in keeping with what Reverend has always tried to instill in the Sensei model. With its black satin or red wine finish, asymmetrical body shape, sharp double-cutaway horns and Mother of Pearl block fret board inlays, the Sensei RA looks as different from its Reverend colleagues as it sounds – similar in style to Gibson’s Nighthawk. While nowhere near as dramatic as other NAMM debuts (such as the Schecter Synyster series with its Deathbat inlays and devil’s-horn headstock), the Sensei has the technical capabilities to stand right up next to it.
Its most obvious feature would be Joe Naylor’s patent-pending Railhammer pickups. These pickups use a rail magnet beneath the wound strings (E, A and D) and posts beneath the G, B and High-E, giving them a visual Morse Code “dot-dot-dot-dash” look that gleams from the black pool of the body and hardware. More important, this configuration provides exceptional tonal balance, too. Reverend’s revolutionary Chisel bridge completes the array of technical standouts that separate the Sensei RA not just from other guitars of its own style, but really from the rest of Reverend’s lineup as well.
All in all, these three versions of Reverend’s existing product line may not have made the biggest splash at NAMM’s 2012 Winter Show, but it does indicate that the company remains forward-thinking and unwilling to stand in one place. Some people opine that Reverend’s body styles (at least on the Sensei, Flatroc and other models) lack visual balance, or that they’ve over-catered to the country-rockabilly niche, but those who own and play them are quick to point out their reliability and versatility as guitars that hold their own against those industry goliaths who have been at this game for a heck of a lot longer than Reverend.
Given the company’s age, one would have to conclude that Reverend has acquitted themselves well this year, with models that are built with care and priced with the working musician in mind. Expect to see more from them in the future as they work their way into a market segment that at times seems far too crowded. Many people see buying a new guitar as something of a “forest-through-the-trees” ordeal. Reverend’s lineup, complete with the tweaks displayed at NAMM, provides some much-appreciated clarity in contrast.
Video: Pete Anderson Demos Reverend Guitar