Review: Epiphone Gary Clark Jr. “Blak and Blu” Casino — Video


Numerous guitarists have played Epiphone Casinos, including Dave Davies, the Edge, Noel Gallagher, Keith Richards and Paul Weller, but the Beatles remain the artists that most guitar players think of first whenever the Casino is mentioned.

However, the meteoric rise of modern blues phenomenon Gary Clark Jr., whose main guitar is also a Casino, suggests that there may be a new contender for “king of the Casino.”

Clark’s use of Casinos on stage and on his incendiary Blak and Blu album has resulted in a surge in demand for the model. So it made perfect sense for Epiphone to introduce the new limited edition Gary Clark Jr. “Blak and Blu” E230TDV Casino.

FEATURES Epiphone currently offers four other different Casino models, but the Gary Clark Jr. “Blak and Blu” Casino is equipped with a variety of notable features that stand out from Epiphone’s other versions. The most immediately noticeable difference is the model’s distinctive “blak and blu” sunburst finish. This model is also the only Casino that is available with a factory-installed Bigsby B70 vibrato tailpiece, although an alternate version of the “Blak and Blu” with a standard trapeze tailpiece is also available. Clark also did away with the floating pickguard—a welcome feature for players who find the Casino’s standard pickguard a hindrance to their playing styles.

Other important features include a pair of Gibson USA P-90 single-coil pickups, a laminated five-ply maple and birch top, and completely hollow-body construction. The glued-in set mahogany neck meets the body at the 16th fret and features 22 medium-jumbo frets, a 24 3/4-inch scale, Sixties SlimTaper D-shaped profile and rosewood fingerboard with parallelogram inlays. The hardware and pickup covers are nickel-plated and include genuine Grover tuners and an ABR Tune-o-matic bridge. Vintage-style details include a top-mounted Switchcraft 1/4-inch output jack and a black plastic grommet for the three-position pickup selector switch.

PERFORMANCE I have played quite a few Casinos over the years, including new models as well as prime vintage examples, but I have to admit that the Gary Clark Jr. “Blak and Blu” model is by far the best Casino I’ve ever played. The tone of the Gibson USA P-90 pickups is absolutely fierce, with a crisp, snarling attack and stellar clarity and definition. Surprisingly, these pickups are also very quiet, and even when I used an overdrive pedal going into a high-gain amp I experienced none of the usual hum that I get from single-coils. I’ve always loved the way P-90s fall in a sweet spot between the fat warmth of a humbucker and the shimmer and twang of Fender-style single-coils, and these pickups are certain to please the most discriminating P-90 connoisseurs.

The construction of our example was immaculate, with the fretwork being particularly impressive. The neck is exceptionally comfortable to play, and the strings respond well to the subtlest nuances and pick articulations. The guitar delivers a bold, rich and resonant voice when played unplugged, and the P-90s retain that character when amplified.

What impressed me the most about the Gary Clark Jr. “Blak and Blu” Casino is how versatile it is. Through a vintage Fender Twin Reverb and with generous use of the Bigsby, it delivered deliciously raunchy rockabilly-meets–David Lynch soundtrack twang, country cluck and jazzy jams. However, my favorite tones were the heavier hard blues howl and classic rock crunch I got when using the “Blak and Blu” with a Friedman Brown Eye and Klon KTR. Even when pushed to blistering distortion the guitar never succumbed to unwanted runaway feedback, and when I did want feedback it was easy to summon just by pointing the body towards the speakers.

LIST PRICES $1,415 (with Bigsby); $1,332 (with trapeze tailpiece)

A pair of Gibson USA P-90 pickups delivers crisp, snarling attack and stellar clarity and definition without the noise usually associated with single-coils.

The “Blak and Blu” is the only current Casino model that is available with a factory-installed Bigsby B70 vibrato tailpiece.

THE BOTTOM LINE If you’ve ever considered a Casino and you’re not a Beatles purist, the Gary Clark Jr. “Blak and Blu” model is by far the best choice for its fierce tone, outstanding playability and sonic versatility.

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Chris Gill, Video by Paul Riario

Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.