What do you get when a great player and a great builder share a passion for a golden age of guitar? Joey Landreth talks us through his Alex Sorokin-built goldtop.
Goldie Han Solo
“This is a guitar built by Alex Sorokin and he’s based out of Edmonton, Alberta in Canada. It doesn’t really have a model number; it’s based on a classic instrument! This is 0008, which is the serial number and he and I both affectionately call it Goldie Han Solo... just because we thought that was funny.”
“As far as my setup, the action is pretty high and because I’m tuned down to open C, which is CGCEGC, I’ve got heavy strings on it so the high E string is a .019 and the low E string is a .064. So it goes .019, .022, .026, .040, .050, .064.
“Tension-wise, I think it’s the equivalent to a set of .013s in standard tuning, maybe more. You can do a bend but you don’t really do too many of them! I think the guitar would probably break in half if it was tuned to standard! Tuned down to C it’s a little more manageable.”
“I was in Nashville playing a show and shooting some videos for my friends at Carter Vintage. I played this ’54 Goldtop Wraptail and it was like $22,000 and was obviously a guitar made of unobtainium for me! But it was amazing and I had never really played a Les Paul that had made me feel that way. The pickups were incredible, and the tone, the wear and the neck... just the way it looked.
“This idea popped into my head and I wondered if Alex would build one. I reached out to him. He said, ‘You just happened to ask for the right guitar because I was interested in building an old gold Wraptail and I also just started listening to [Bros Landreth] and I really like your record,’ so it was just perfect timing. And since then he’s been getting a lot of orders and he’s had to turn them down because he doesn’t build for money.”
“These pickups were wound by the people over at ThroBak on the same machine that would have wound the pickups in the ’54 I played. So this is a poor man’s ’54 but still a pretty expensive guitar, though a lot more affordable for me.
“All the details are right and Alex spent the better part of a year finding the right wood because he wanted to make sure it wasn’t going to be too heavy.
“I think a lot of people shy away from [Les Paul-style guitars] because they’re heavy and he was knocking on chunks of mahogany until he found something he thought was resonant enough but also light enough. So this guitar doesn’t weigh a ton.”
“I play in a weird tuning so there were certain things that needed to be taken into consideration when it came to adjusting the setup and we got really fussy about the radius of the fingerboard. The nut is made of nylon because they were made of nylon back in the 50s. And the switch tip on this guitar was CNC’d from the laser etching of an original one so the shape is right and it’s made of vintage catalin rod actually from the 50s – which is actually ridiculous but awesome.”
“The only change I’ve made to it is I’ve put this effective but highly ugly bridge on and that’s because the compensated Wraptails don’t work because I’m tuned to an open tuning so they make the intonation even worse. [Alex] and I are in the process of figuring out what the intonation needs to be set to in order to play right and then I think we’re going to find somebody who can mill us an aluminium bridge. Partially because there’s tonal consequences but mainly to get the look right.”
Joey Landreth’s new solo album Hindsight is out now on the Birthday Cake label.