By Greg Cahill
The first thing you notice when you strum the Blueridge BG-1500ESB Jumbo is the robust warmth of its tone—like a splash of sunlight filtering through tall trees in the Smoky Mountains that give this company its name.
OK, the allusion to the Smoky Mountains is a bit misleading, since this guitar has several modern appointments that defy the laws of tradition. Those include a bright orange sunburst, Art Deco-style rosewood bridge and headstock inlay, and vintage-style keystone tuners. Overall, the effect is Gibsonesque. But strumming an open-G chord, unplugged, delivers a full, rich sound with punchy bass, clear mids, and shimmering treble—a sparkle that is characteristic of Blueridge guitars.
Add to that the low string action that makes even a barred F chord easy to play, loud volume (the super-jumbo body boasts a 17-inch lower bout), a solid Sitka top, and stunning flamed maple back and sides, and you have a guitar that delivers the goods.
While Blueridge has made its name manufacturing affordable unadorned dreadnoughts with high-end tonewoods that are popular with bluegrass players, the BG-1500ESB is a kin of the company’s flagship BG-2500, but with less ornate woods and inlay.
An afternoon picking session with AG contributing editor Mark Kemp finds the BG-1500ESB to be a well-rounded, versatile guitar. It’s low action, thin neck profile, and 111/16-inch nut are comfortable for fingerstyle while playing Elizabeth Cotten’s “Freight Train,” using my thumb to bar the descending bass line on “The House of the Rising Sun,” and noodling a parcel of moody chord shapes.
Strumming the Beatles’ “Eight Days a Week” produces a woody tone, and that signature intro-outro riff is blessed with a chiming effect.
Kemp’s bluegrass licks fly effortlessly from the rosewood fretboard. He found the guitar’s high register a bit bright, a product, in part, of the maple back and sides, but I also attributed that to the new strings.
The BG-1500ESB really shines when played through a Henriksen “Bud” acoustic amp—lightly picked folk songs sparkle and country ballads have a suitably warm glow.
The onboard Fishman Presys Plus electronics deliver a natural tone and add fire to Kemp’s rendition of the Grateful Dead’s “Friend of the Devil.”
At a street price as low as $799, the BG-1500ESB holds its own against many higher-priced jumbos, offering a unique blend of the modern and the traditional.
BODY 14-fret super jumbo; Solid Sitka top; Flamed maple back and sides; Rosewood bridge; Orange sunburst high-gloss finish
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NECK 3-piece laminate maple; Rosewood fingerboard; 25.6-inch scale; 1-11/16-inch nut
ELECTRONICS Fishman Presys Plus
EXTRAS Bone nut and saddle; Hardshell case
PRICE $995 MSRP, $799 street
Made in China