I receive so many ukuleles and guitars for review that my home office looks like a showroom at Guitar Center (I’m not complaining!). Most of these instruments go unnoticed by my family, but not the freshly made Lichty uke I spent time with. When I first strummed a few chords, the family gravitated from the far corners of the house to admire the instrument with its stentorian voice and handsome looks. My four-year-old son summed up our feelings nicely when he said, “We can’t send this one back!”
Jay Lichty, a luthier based in the mountains of North Carolina, evidently pulled out all of the stops for the low-G long-neck tenor, which he built for Kimo Hussey. Lichty chose distinctive woods—cocobolo back and sides with a sinker redwood soundboard made of wood cut from ancient redwood logs recovered from Northern California rivers—and modern features, like a side soundport for directing sound to the player’s ears, and a bolt-on neck for stability and adjustability.
The Lichty’s sinker redwood top was made from an old-growth redwood log reclaimed from the bottom of a Northern California river.
The instrument looks awesome. Its simple but elegant rosette echoes subtly in tiny abalone dots on the bridge and headstock. Bloodwood binding on the body and neck lends an organic feel to the Lichty, and the slotted headstock with engraved black-and-gold tuners and ebony buttons are regal flourishes. From the smoothness of its fretwork to the cleanliness inside the box, the uke boasts flawless crafting.
The Lichty has a giraffe-like neck—19-inch scale and 22 frets—meeting the body way up at the 15th fret. This is an advantage for guitarists who do double duty on the uke. The fretboard has a 7.5-inch radius and a 1.5-inch nut and slinky action. It’s a dream to play, equally hospitable to barre chords and speedy single-note lines.
And what a sound.
The Lichty responds well to anything you throw at it. When fingerpicked gently for some J.S. Bach arrangements, it has a warm and dulcet tone, with a good balance between registers. In an opposite mode, it has an aggressive bark and great definition and projection for frenzied strumming, Ramones-style. Plugged into a Fender Acoustasonic amp, the uke has a natural sound, thanks to its K&K Aloha Twin pickup. No matter the idiom, unplugged or amplified, it always feels inspiring to play this heirloom-quality instrument.
With prices starting at around three grand ($4,725 as reviewed), Lichty’s ukuleles will no doubt have a selective audience. However, if the test model was any indication, a Lichty is an excellent choice for the serious ukester with deep pockets.
Not having the latter, I have to break the sad news to my son that the Lichty will be returned.
Lichty Long Neck Tenor
- Low-G tenor with sinker redwood top and cocobolo back and sides
- Smooth cutaway
- Gloss finish
- Bolt-on mahogany neck with ebony fingerboard
- Ebony bridge
- Rubner tuners
- K&K Aloha Twin pickup
- Crossrock fiberglass case
- $2,950 base price, $4,725 as reviewed