Cody Foster – Rye Guitar

I first learned of Bootlegger through a random stumble on Reverb. Like many musicians, I constantly and casually scroll through Reverb just to see what is up for sale that day while in search of the next “tone adventure”. My first interaction with Bootlegger was the Blues 15 tube amp. Being in the marketing and advertising business as my day job, I was intrigued by the subtle simplicity of the design and overall look. What I couldn’t understand was how someone was able to sell a 15 watt all tube head with a 1×12” cabinet with an Eminence speaker for under $600. I was skeptical but, even though I really wasn’t in the market for another amp at the time, I stuck it in my watch list to potentially purchase later.
Fast forward to about 1 ½ to 2 years later; I join The Heather Roush Band as the 2nd guitarist and vocalist and meet Roger Kohrs. Roger is the bassist and, having been a professional, touring musician for over 20 years, has had the ability to become involved with some great companies as an endorsee. One such company being Bootlegger. Roger now has a signature Ace Bass and had nothing but positive things to say about the company and its owner, Chuck Wilson. I decided to look at the site and see what they had to offer. The Single Barrel was the first guitar that caught my attention. A semi-hollow guitar with a Telecaster style bridge pickup, a P90 neck pickup, all for under $600? Sounded like a steal! I wasn’t in the market for another guitar, but I kept it in mind for later and began following Bootlegger on socials in more detail. Then came the release of the Rye.
As a guitar player I’ve always had a love for elegant simplicity. I’ve never owned super flashy guitars and seemed to always choose function over flash. Coming from a Punk and Blues background, I loved utilitarian grit. The Rye had every single bit of that and what I loved in a guitar. Top to bottom black, white binding, a dual humbucker setup with a set neck construction, an ash body, maple neck, and a rosewood fretboard all coming in at $549. That seemed crazy to me. Knowing the nature of the guitar market, I wasn’t sure how Chuck was able to make that happen. I asked Roger more about the guitars and he explained how the guitars are all precision built in South Korea and, including by selling direct, that’s how Chuck can sell great guitars at an affordable price.
Later, Roger mentioned to Chuck in a conversation that I was interested in the Rye and Chuck was kind enough to send one from Hermosa Beach, California all the way across the country to Ohio for me to road test and get my hands on. As soon as the guitar arrived and hit my fingers, I was instantly impressed. The guitar felt extremely rugged but incredibly comfortable. The neck felt familiar and was easy to play. The body had weight, but no dive and felt like something that could easily take the stress of many all-night gigs. I took the guitar home, strung it up with my strings and set it up to my specifications. After that, it felt even better. Once that was done, all that was left was to take it to a gig and run it through the paces.
I’ll start by saying that I am not a gentle player. I hit hard, I jump around, and I really get into the music. The Rye took every single hit and gave it back to me in spades. It rocked and rolled with me all night through every single song. I don’t use an overly complicated pedal set up but do play through unforgiving amplifiers that don’t necessarily hide my own flaws. That night, I was playing through my 2000 TopHat Club Royale 20 (essentially a hand-wired, hot-rodded AC30) and, let me tell you, the Rye rocked. It produced thick, LP style cleans as well as rich, and crunchy overdriven tones but never got muddy. I was incredibly impressed with the South Korean-made Tesla pickups and how they carried the sound as well as pick attack. On top of that, they were incredibly quiet pickups. They truly did work as great humbuckers.
Whether I was playing a clean, swirling, textured rhythm part or a soaring, saturated lead line, the guitar stayed in tune and in top form all night. Again, I was incredibly impressed. It not only fit my style but also my personality as a player, without being overly flashy or making sacrifices on quality for superfluous details. As I previously mentioned, it was a utilitarian, Rock and Roll machine. Full stop.
The Bootlegger Rye ships with a solid and reliable hard-shell case and the signature Bootlegger Flask, set up and ready to go for $549. I can assure you that is one heck of a steal. Especially for a guitar with a set neck construction. What Chuck is doing with Bootlegger is exactly what is needed in the modern guitar industry: fantastic guitars at an affordable price for the working, everyman musician. As a regularly gigging musician, I can’t recommend the Bootlegger Guitar Rye enough. If you are looking for a slick, rugged guitar that sounds great, will get through many long nights, and won’t break your bank to pieces, look no further. The Rye will do and be all those things. Like I said before, it’s a Rock and Roll machine.
When you choose your next guitar, consider Bootlegger. You can go get a guitar from a big box company like many others – and if that’s your thing, no harm no foul. Or, you can take a chance on and support a small builder and business that truly cares about the products he puts out and be rewarded ten-fold. You can stick with what you know or be an Outlaw and snag a Rye. It’s got my vote.
Cody Foster (The Exit Strategy/The Heather Roush Band)