Brownsville is a guitar company that is hard to find anything out about. I’ll spare you all the details of my search, but the end result is that I figured out that Brownsville was the House Brand for Sam Ash.
Okay, I just deleted a long, boring story about my first experience with Brownsville guitars. Let’s just say it was good enough that when I stumbled across this one on Reverb for under $200, I was willing to pull the trigger.
Here’s the one I got:
Here’s what you should notice right off:
- quality paint job and craftsmanship
- made in Korea
- excellent upper fret access
- good materials
- “toaster” pickups
Here’s what you can’t tell from pictures: what the tone is like, how well it is set up, how well it plays…
Maybe the neck is bowed? Maybe the frets are uneven? Maybe the fret ends are sharp (the biggest problem on cheap guitars)? Maybe it sounds like crap?
None of the above. It plays like an intermediate-level guitar. If I’d played it first, I’d have expected to pay $500. I paid $140.
The fret ends are smooth. The neck is straight. The craftsmanship is excellent.
And it’s built like a tank.
I checked on eBay to see if one was currently available, and found only an old advertisement for sale. Apparently this guitar was in production in 1999. I’m not sure how long the line was in existence, but if only for 2-3 years (as is most likely), mine is virtually mint, despite being at least 15 years old.
My research also indicated that toaster-style pickups are single coils, but many cheaper versions of toaster pickups are actually double coils with a fake cover. The eBay advertisement also indicates single coils, but when plugged in and in a single coil position, there is no hum whatsoever. So if it is a single coil, there is a dummy coil stacked with it.
Still, it has credible single coil tones.
Is it the best-sounding guitar I’ve played? No, but it does sound good. It is light and resonant due to being a semi-hollow body. The bridge is much more comfortable to rest your hand on than a tune-o-matic. The tuners are sturdy enough to keep it in tune despite heavy thrashing. It has good quack in the 2/4 notch positions, good funk tone in the middle position, and a decent dark single coil tone in the neck. I can’t see myself using the bridge position alone for much, it was a little harsh and raspy.
I’m not encouraging you to go out and find and buy this guitar. You may hate it, especially if you have ever played on a guitar retailing at $1k or above, much less a used one. But it is lust-worthy because it is cheap (someone claimed to have found one for $50; I got mine for $140; patience should get you one for about that), far better than it has any right to be, and I’d take it gigging or to a jam session without a seconds’ hesitation.*
*This is because of a paradigm-shifting realization at the last open mic jam session I went to…which will come up in a future post, maybe as early as next week.