It’s been two years now since Barnes & Mullins enlisted the help of all-star luthier Patrick James Eggle to revive cult Brit brand Shergold, bringing back the double-cut Masquerader in a variety of configurations for guitarists in the market for something a little bit different to the norm.
While we were suitably impressed with the original Masquerader’s fabulous hand-burnished, solid rosewood neck, its body shape – heavily informed by the ’70s original – wasn’t universally beloved. Enter then, the brand-new Provocateur, a design that keeps many of the Masquerader’s more individual design choices, but with a single-cut body that feels more crowd-pleasing.
Indeed, with its prominent body carve and large Tele Deluxe-style extended scratchplate, it certainly gives off a modern boutique vibe – especially in this Battleship Grey finish with cream pickguard and vintage-style silver-capped top-hat knobs.
At first glance, the neck seems to have been lifted directly from the Masquerader, complete with the paddle-shaped headstock with inset metal badge, but there are some important differences. Instead of solid rosewood, the Provocateur has a more CITES-friendly torrefied mahogany neck with an ebony fingerboard.
Another big change is the scale length – while the Masquerader opted for a Fender-style 25.5-inch scale, here we’ve switched to 24.6 inches. Combined with the 12-inch fretboard radius, this lends a Gibson-like feel to proceedings, despite the bolt-on neck.
Elsewhere, on the hardware front, the Masquerader’s Eggle-designed T-style bridge returns in chopped form (with compensated brass saddles and through-body or top-loading stringing options), as do the staggered-post locking tuners – though the tulip buttons coordinate with the scratchplate this time around.
Pickups comprise a pair of Seymour Duncan ’59s with cream-and-black zebra bobbins – the neck unit is scratchplate-mounted, while the bridge humbucker is screw directly into the guitar’s mahogany body. When it comes to electronics, we have a three-way toggle with single volume and tone knobs, the latter hiding a push-pull switch to activate a coil-split on both pickups.
While the vibe here is definitely more Gibson than Fender, the strung-through Tele-style bridge and bolt-on neck certainly add some sparkle to the guitar’s acoustic resonance when played unplugged. It’s quite lively for a solidbody – always a good sign.
The neck is a nice handful without getting into telegraph-pole territory, with a very slight V to the profile that makes it sit nicely in the hand. This is helped by the almost acoustic-like hand-burnished finish to the back of the neck – it’s silky without being slippy and paired with some nicely rolled fret-ends, it makes for a smooth playing experience up and down the neck.
Strapping the Provocateur on (and it should be said, the dainty aluminum strap buttons would not make us comfortable throwing this guitar around with wild abandon), it proves to be nicely balanced, while weight-wise, it’s more Tele than Les Paul, clocking in at around seven pounds.
The chances are that if you’re reading this, you know what a Duncan ’59 in a solid mahogany single-cut sounds like – and if you’re looking for a guitar that sounds as unique as it looks, well, you might be out of luck here. But the ’59 is popular for a reason and both pickups offer a nice mix of high-output humbucker-y goodness with a modern sheen that begs to be paired with loads of gain.
That said, the middle position is a welcome surprise – it has a warm, chiming tonality that’s perfect for gently picked clean lines and atmospheric effects, especially with the tone rolled back.
There’s more versatility to be had by pulling up the tone pot and engaging the coil split, of course – and if you want more spank than the complete 50 Shades… omnibus, strap yourself in and get funky. But if you’re after a more subtle single-coil tonality, while easing back the tone control does take a little edge off, it might be a touch weedy for our tastes, at least when played clean.
If the Masquerader was Shergold reinventing its heritage, the Provocateur feels like a confident step into the future. While we still wince at an £800 guitar that doesn’t come with a gigbag, everything else about this guitar does the business. With its excellent build quality, a selection of crowd-pleasing tones from name-brand pickups and quirky stylings, it’s a rock-ready single-cut for the player who wants to be a little different.
- PRICE £809
- DESCRIPTION Solidbody electric guitar. Made in Indonesia (set up in UK)
- BUILD Single-cut mahogany body, bolt-on solid torrefied mahogany neck, 12” radius ebony fingerboard with hand-inlaid aluminum line fret markers, 22 medium-jumbo hard nickel frets
- HARDWARE Staggered-height locking machineheads with cream tulip buttons, PJE Design Shergold Custom T bridge (with option to string-through or top-load) with 3x compensated brass saddles
- ELECTRICS 2x Seymour Duncan ’59 humbucking pickups, volume, tone (with push-pull coil split), 3-way toggle selector switch
- SCALE LENGTH 24.625″/625.5mm
- NECK WIDTH 43mm at nut, 52mm at 12th fret
- NECK DEPTH 21mm at first fret, 22.5mm at 12th fret
- STRING SPACING 35.5mm at nut, 54mm at bridge
- WEIGHT 3.18kg/7lb
- LEFT-HANDERS No
- FINISH Solid Battleship Grey (as reviewed), Thru Black, Thru Dirty Blonde
- CONTACT Barnes & Mullins bandm.co.uk, shergoldguitars.com