Guitar Stories

Lyric Guitar ReviewLyric Guitar Review

The beginning of any new guitar venture begins with a gleam in somebody's eye, and John Southern of Tulsa certainly has a different vision of what an instrument should be; sleek, ergonomic, and versatile, without any real ties to Leo or Orville. Well, to be perfectly fair, it's hard to design something that has no relation to what has come before, but John is definitely on his own path.

The Lyric Guitar Company's motto is "Have it your way" (hmm, sounds like a Carl's Junior ad), and John means it. His creations are fluid and original, ranging from the semi-hollow Venus 6-string electric that houses a piezo under the bridge as its only electric transducer, to the Jupiter, a three-pickup plus piezo creation with the same body style, but more options. The electric bass (The Zeus), is neck-through, and bears some resemblance to the Alembic. Our review guitar is The Mars, a single-pickup thinline electric with the additional saddle-transducer, a tear-drop f-hole in the upper bout, and some attributes that harken back to the elegance of Rossmeisl's Rickenbacker years. The bridge transducer can be mixed with the magnetic pickup to great effect, and a coil-tap is built into the magnetic pickup tone control, as well, making this highly flexible. The "Pinky swell" knob built into the all-wood pickguard (which, unfortunately, cracked in shipment), is misplaced if you like to play near the bridge, but ideal for pedal steel and other volume effects.

Meester Mars' headstock is unusual, but gorgeous, and the banjo-type tuners (carved from abalone) are a bit crowded and hard to figure, at first. The overall impression is of an eclectic and extremely innovative guitar, incorporating a lot of new features that make it very comfortable to play. Jazz players love this little guy - and can coax an amazing variety of sounds from it, using the magnetic and piezo combined. How did Jimmy feel?

"On the plus side, I do like the shape and feel of the neck - It's real big, one of my favorite profiles. The fingerboard's a bit flat - it could use more radius, especially if this is the kind of instrument you're going to play jazz or quiet stuff on, without a lot of bending, but [the guitar] does manage to put out a lot of nice sounds, especially in the jazz area. The Charley Christian-type input jack worries me a little 'cause it makes it impossible to set the guitar down on stage. It's not what I would use on the road as a traveling instrument, but I think it would be good for a club or recording dates.

"But the entire guitar is aesthetically challenged. How's that for p.c.? I would rate the finish as poor. I think the builder was trying to go for the lightest finish possible, because he would want the body to vibrate as much as possible. Also, the lamination on the neck is uneven, and you can feel the seams with your hand."

Jimmy tries a few complex chords, comping up and the neck, sounding pretty damn jazzy for a died-in-the-wool rock and roller.

"The headstock's a bad idea," he frowns. "The straight pull from the tuners to the strings is a good one, but it's very confusing, and way too close for the size of the tuners.

"The body is small, and it's actually pretty comfortable to hold. Except that dial ( referring to the swell knob, which is in the way of this right hand sweeps), that's just a nightmare.

"The weight is really manageable, this guitar wouldn't hurt your arm by the end of the night, like an L-5 or Super 400 would. This pickup is a perfect copy of a Johnny Smith, and sounds quite good - lots of warmth and presence. It has all the sonic aspects of a fat jazz guitar. He might want to rethink the look of it a bit, but I think electrically, he's onto a good thing."

In speaking with John Southern, he assures us the finish has been refined, and is now a thin-but-glossy old fashioned one-overshaded red sunburst, much improved over the early finish Jimmy examined. If the Lyric interest you, contact John Southern at (918) 747-7380, or write 56 E 53 Place, Tulsa, OK 74105.

The Mars list for around $2,900, but the wood quality and amount of work that goes into this guitar may make it just your cup of tea.