There are few things in life that can bring you instant pleasure between your fingertips.  One of those absolutes is writing, the other is playing music.  After a two decade wait, I am now the proud owner of a 2008 Gibson Les Paul Standard guitar with the sweet “Iced Tea” finish.


My love of playing music began twenty years ago in New York City’s Greenwich Village.  We were renting a tiny studio apartment that had the bathtub in the kitchen and Matt Umanov Guitars right around the corner.  When you strolled the neighborhood you were always tempted to step into Matt’s and, one day, I did.

I was late coming to music — as a youngster I played the piano poorly but sang okay — but when I saw a Martin HD-28 acoustic guitar hanging on the Umanov wall, I knew I had to get back into the sight and sound of making music with my fingers. 

It was a joy learning how to play that Martin HD-28 and I was lucky enough to play it well.

However, as time and tide crushed the standard of living the young artist’s life in NYC, years later I ended up having to sell my beloved Martin HD-28 to make the rent.  It was such a heart-rasping experience giving up that HD-28 that I refused allow the joy of a guitar back into my life for 20 years. 

The lesson in selling a beloved to make rent is that there is no faster compression of time into space than the moments of the first of the month arriving twelve times a year.  You will run out of beloveds faster than you can delay the inevitable.  Confess defeat.  Preserve your joy.  Move on in your humiliation.  Your saved beloved will later heal your broken pride.  Unless, of course, you sold it — then you’re just left broken and empty and joyless.

As life progressed, and maturity aged the mind and gilded the heart, I decided it was time to honor my nomadic, polymathic, lifestyle and dip back into the music scene. 

I refused to buy another acoustic because I didn’t want to risk the jinxing of my previous Martin HD-28 joy, so I found a good deal on a Fender Nashville Power Telecaster electric guitar.

That NaPo Tele was, and is, a fine instrument — but when my 2008 Gibson Les Paul Standard electric arrived this week — there was absolutely no comparison between the two guitars. 

The Les Paul is a magical, cosmic, beauty that is easier to play, and more pleasureful to pick, than any other string instrument I’ve had the pleasure to pluck and strum.

The Les Paul is forgiving and wants to please you.  The guitar has a tonal elegance that makes one sniffle a bit when the bridge is active and then scream with glee when the neck pickup sings.  Blending the two just makes you happy.

The 2008 Les Paul Standard has a tremendous voice and history and while guitar purists will argue today’s guitars aren’t as good as the originals made in the 1950’s, I would counter with the notion that you take what you can get and getting a 2008 Les Paul Standard is a convenient and fine way to experience the history of Gibson guitar music making.

As I move forward with my reinvested learning in music, I wonder what might’ve happened if I’d found a way to salvage my Martin HD-28 way back when. 

We must not live in regret — but re-modeling the immature past against the rough-hewn wisdom of distance and perspective — we can begin to see new paths for re-discovery and salvation in the future.

If I’d kept the HD-28, I would have 20 years of practice under my thumb and fingertips and I
would likely not be as frustrated having to relearn what was forgotten
in the loss — older always equals harder — but perhaps there’s an unquantifiable joy of rediscovering
who I was and what I wanted to be and the elder in me can hearken back to
the manchild of yesterday and smile in knowing now that everything worked out in the end; even if it took two decades to get back to zero
normal.

34 Comments

  1. That guitar is beautiful. I got a Les Paul Epiphone Custom. It’s quite the workout, but it doesn’t have fret 24. Im looking forward to buying another one in about another year or so. Prob Gibson Les Paul or a Jackson V 🙂

  2. Thanks! t is a beautiful guitar and mine has the wood flame, too. It was a little extra, but that’s okay. One thing I learned in buying my Martin HD-28 is that a good guitar can be a great investment. In about five years my beautiful HD-28 let me double my money when I sold it.
    My Les Paul Gibson Standard has a great tone and a mellowness and roundness that I enjoy and I can dirty it up just fine with my Marshall amp or my DS-1 pedal. I really love the plekd setup as well as the asymmetrical neck. It’s so much easier to play and get a good sound with the Les Paul than it is with my Telecaster.
    Have you thought about the Gibson SG Standard? Some can’t tell the difference between it and the Les Paul Standard. I think the SG is gruntier and rougher — which I like — you can get a fine taste of it here in a great Arlen Roth tutorial:
    http://www.gibson.com/en-us/Lifestyle/Lessons/Lesson-Of-The-Day/slide-guitar-block-damp-611/
    I’m also loving the Gibson ES-335. Here’s Arlen Roth again giving a great demo of the guitar while teaching a fab strumming technique:
    http://www.gibson.com/en-us/Lifestyle/Lessons/Lesson-Of-The-Day/the-right-hand-is-the-drummer/
    The Jackson V looks like it’ll bite you! A bit too sharp for me! SMILE!

  3. Wow. They are a rare find. The only guitar I ever found at guitar center, was a signature model of Dave Mustaine’s guitar. What Do you lean for playing most?

  4. Ah! Sorry! Been a long day here. I love the Blues! Then early Dylan. Then into the early Folk Electric and emergence of the electric sound in the 60’s and 70’s. Country music also has some fine melodies and that, I like, a lot.
    What are your favorites?

  5. Outstanding!
    Do you mostly strum or pick or fingerpick?
    I’m not much for the modern music, either, though Fall Out Boy’s “Sugar, We’re Goin Down” has some excellent guitar riffs. It’s a musically gifted song.

  6. I strum, fingerpick recently because I was attempting Fur Elise. I want to guy an acoustic and do it properly. I also recently started getting much better at sweeping across the neck. They performed at my school some years ago. They recorded “Dance Dance” on my school gym. 🙂

  7. I had been eyeing the 2008 Standard for a while as well, checking reviews, planning, deliberating. “Do I need another guitar? Does my playing warrant another guitar. Damn that is a nice guitar…” I had decided to take a look at them on a planned trip to in June. Sat down with a few, as well as special edition Epiphone LP fitted with the same Burstbuckers… but the Iced Tea LP was calling to me.
    The kicker is I went home, and by chance came across your post, about the same 2008 Ice Tea Standard, posted the same day. Thought about it overnight, went back the next day and tried them again. 3 hours later I was on a flight back home to Shanghai. Dang, that IS a beautiful guitar, sounding, playing, and looking!

  8. tohokuben —
    My Les Paul Standard was the second guitar I bought. I now have five. It is one of my top players because it has all the modern upgrades while retaining that classic Les Paul sound. Those upgrades — neck, tuners, body weight — all make the guitar play just a little easier.
    I also have a vintage ’57 Les Paul VOS — great guitar, but a little clunky, heavy and old feeling — and for playability, the Les Paul Standard beats it hands down.
    I have no idea why I bought the Iced Tea Burst. It was calling to me for some strange reason. Inside the burst looks brown. Outside, the burst is red. Amazing! I wouldn’t want any other color burst to go with my divinely heavenly heavy wood flame.

  9. I love your review of not just this instrument, but the entire realm of playing stringed instruments. I have been yearning for a real Gibson Les Paul for the past couple years, have been wanting a 2008 Standard. I have a couple entry-level electrics, a nice Alvarez acoustic, a nice Ovation acoustic, and two Chinese Les Paul knockoffs (pretty damned good), but the real deal has evaded me lo these many years.

    However today, I traded a 1976 MGB Roadster for a 2008 Les Paul Standard Premium Top Iced Tea Burst and I am seriously full of joy. After the trader drove off in the MGB, I googled this guitar and found your blog.

    Seriously. I am giddy right now. My first real Gibson! YAY! While I loved the car, it was not being driven much. The guitar will be played every day.

    1. Thanks for the comment, radwarrior, and welcome to Urban Semiotic!

      I am crazy about the 2008 Gibson Les Paul Standard. I think it hits all the right notes and specs and it plays so beautifully. Some Les Paul purists may scoff at us — but that’s only because they refuse to give the 2008 a chance. After playing my ’57 Les Paul VOS, the 2008 Standard is a much better, and more willingly forgiving, instrument.

      Congrats on the great instrument!

      Be sure to check out http://BolesBlues.com for more music reviews and information!

  10. Hey David,

    I notice you have been trying/testing a variety of strings, and seem to have gone full circle; I was ready to try Gibson Brites based on your review, then Ernie Ball Pure Nickel Wraps, and now see that you are back to D’Addario. As we both have the 2008 Gibson LP Standard (by chance also Iced Tea, though got my in Tokyo :), I was curious what strings you are most pleased with on her. I have D’Add 10’s on my right now; which happened to stock up on in bulk last time I was in your neck of the woods – NYC.

    Just curious!

    Sean