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Michael Kelly Guitars: Review of the Patriot Custom

Blake is a musician and is familiar with the process of reviewing guitars.

The knobs have been changed out on mine to be chrome, but otherwise, this is what the Patriot Custom looks like.

The knobs have been changed out on mine to be chrome, but otherwise, this is what the Patriot Custom looks like.

Patriot Custom Review

The Michael Kelly Patriot Custom is a beautiful guitar, but beauty isn't everything. A real guitar player wants great sounding tone, playability, comfort, reliability, and value. I have been playing for over 10 years, so I want it all now.

I started on an Alvarez strat copy, did some time with an Epi Les Paul, Epi Dot, and other strats including Fender. My styles include blues and modern rock. Usually I like a little grit in my tone, but not anything that covers the real tone of the guitar.

Getting the right settings on the amp seem to me to be more important that the guitar you are playing. That's my background and I give the Michael Kelly Patriot Custom a 9.2 out of 10 rating.  Read the details below.

Appearance Review

The Michael Kelly Patriot Custom is a gorgeous guitar. The flame maple, the colorful abalone fretboard inlays, the chrome hardware, and awesome sunburst stain make this a flashy guitar.

It looks like a high end PRS guitar blended with a Gibson Les Paul Custom. The back is mahogany and is also beautiful. It comes with black knobs which look much better than some of the Les Pauls which sport orange knobs.

In general, the Patriot Custom looks like an expensive guitar to me. No cheap looking parts make it look like a solid axe.  It may be a little flashy for my tastes if anything, but I can't mark it down any for that.

  • Appearance Rating: 10

Sound/Tone Review

Probably more important than any of the looks of a guitar is it's sound. If you've got a great looking guitar that sounds awful, then you wasted your money.

In the case of the Michael Kelly Patriot Custom, the looks match the sound fairly well. The pickups have coil taps, so you can get a wide range of sounds traditionally produced from Strats, Tele's, and Pauls.

The most impressive sound is the bridge pickup on both the humbucker setting and the coil tap. You get a gritty or smoky tone that's bright enough to cut through the mix and thick enough to play lead rhythm parts.

Unfortunately, the neck pickup is not as bright, and I find myself wanting to turn the tone knob to 11 when I use only the neck pickup. I was able to adjust the pickup post heights and add a little more tone, and I am happy with what I have now. It's possible that the over winding of the Rockfield pickups gives them a thicker tone in general, but the contrast between the bridge and neck pickup is vast.

One other drawback is that there is only one volume and one tone knob, so you can't make your own mixes of varying degrees of each pickup on the fly. You can make adjustments with a screwdriver and get it set the way you want, however, so it isn't a big deal to me.

The best thing about the sound of the Patriot Custom is it's ability to get the variety of tones from Strat to Les Paul. I don't know that I would be able to tell you the difference between the Patriot and those others unless you were playing completely clean and you A/B'd them for me.

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Grover tuners should keep you in tune, which is essential for great sound.  Locking bridge and graphite nut help too.  No upgrade needed here.

  • Sound Rating: 9 (because the tone wasn't automatically awesome)

Playability and Comfort Review

I bought my Patriot Custom used, so I didn't set it up. It is set up great for playing right now, and I will work on intonation if I need to.

The shape of the neck is thin enough to get you around the fretboard with ease. The smooth ebony fretboard is very responsive to nuances in playing.  The action is low with no fret buzz thanks to a straight neck and good setup.

One minor drawback here is for those who are a bit on the wimpy side. The guitar is heavy. It is solid hard wood, and that makes for some weight around your neck. I play a couple hours worth at a time and have no pain or discomfort, but at 6'4" I am a larger than average guy.

The guitar is extra thick and the edge of the guitar digs into your wrist a little. I knew this was par for the territory when I bought it, and consider this a trade-off of comfort for solid craftsmanship.

Reaching the highest frets is a breeze because the Michael Kelly people angled the neck joint to allow you to feel the same neck thickness all the way up. I don't play that high that often, so I could take or leave this feature, but if you are a metal solo player, you'll probably love it.

  • Playability Rating: 9

Reliability Review

The Michael Kelly has been reliable for me so far.  I know some things go bad with time anyway like the switch or pots.  I will update this page if I have any problems with it that are due to workmanship.  Until then, I will have to give it a 10.

  • Reliability Review: 10 (no problems yet)

Value Review

The Michael Kelly Patriot Custom seems to sell for around $600.00 new. I got mine used for less, but even if I had paid $600.00 it would be worth the price.

I think that if the Michael Kelly name was more popular like PRS for example, these guitars would be more than a grand each. I am finding the longer I play guitar that there are some guitars that are undervalued, and people who know what to look for can get a steal.

I think I got a steal with this guitar because it feels good and sounds great when I play. That makes it fun, and makes me want to play more. I think this could easily be a great alternative for someone looking for high quality with a limited budget. It was for me.

It is not American made, but I don't really care who makes the guitar as long as it is good.  The pickups are American made and the design is American also.  I understand that labor is cheaper in other parts of the world, so I evaluate quality on an individual basis.

  • Value Review: 10

Michael Kelly Guitars

Overall Review of Michael Kelly Patriot Custom

Overall, the Michael Kelly gets between a 9 and 10 from me.  The physical design could be modified for added comfort, and the neck pickup could have a little more of a bright tone, but otherwise I couldn't ask for more in a guitar.

Rate the Patriot Custom


Wilson Ho on January 31, 2012:

Any idea what's the thickness of the neck ? is it like a 60's neck? I have always played thin neck Strats and Ibanez so I don't mind a little thickness but not like baseball thick... appreciate the help thank you

gosha on August 29, 2011:

Brand u.s.a, guitar made in Korea. Really,really good guitar, so easy to play)

madeinusa on August 03, 2011:

What country is this guitar made?

rexy12345 on December 29, 2010:

my dad loves guitars and his fave is a gretch but he likes these too

richmediadp from Orange County, CA -USA on November 26, 2010:

Great article. I agree with you that Michael Kelly guitars are awesome. I bought mine 3 years ago after seeing and playing it at NAMM Show that year. Bought the Patriot Q and I am a happy camper.

Vitali Tschernobyl on August 16, 2010:

Thanks again!

Blake Flannery (author) from United States on August 15, 2010:


I tried checking out some YouTube videos of the V100 Les Paul. Most of them sounded horrible. I thought they sounded o.k. clean, very vintage in nature. I didn't like the thin, compressed sound when played with any distortion though.

Vitali Tschernobyl on August 15, 2010:

Thanks, I'll give the Patriot Custom a try. I think I'll go with the amber finish. I also intend to try out a Vintage Icon V100 Les Paul. Do you have any experience with this guitar? It is also said to be very good for the price.

Blake Flannery (author) from United States on August 14, 2010:

Vital Tschernobyl,

I have no idea about the neck radius. I know that I think it is a smooth and fast neck to play, but I usually prefer a thicker neck since I have long fingers. I have no experience with 60 Les Paul.

Vitali Tschernobyl on August 14, 2010:

You write the neck is thin. Is it thinner or as equally thin as the 60's neck shape of a Gibsin Les Paul guitar? I'm asking because I'm having trouble with those 50's necks which for me are very hard to play. With Les Pauls I find the thinner the neck the better the playability...

William Cobb from Columbia, SC on April 01, 2010:

I'm gonna check that hub out... Thanks.

Blake Flannery (author) from United States on April 01, 2010:

There's a yes and no answer to that. I think playing complicated rhythms on acoustic is somewhat difficult. Playing metal solos on electric is somewhat difficult. Play acoustic for songwriting and rhythm, but play electric if you want to be a great solo player. Or better yet, play both.

Yes, you are right in the simplest way, the action is usually lower on electrics and the strings are lighter making them easier to play. Unfortunately, your skill level isn't enhanced just because the mechanics of playing is easier. Get good on both, I think the skills of each compliment each other.

I like blues, so I play both electric (lead) blues and acoustic (folk style) blues. I can't say which one is more difficult because I am about average playing both. The delta blues migrated to Chicago with the hope of a job and freedom for African Americans in the south. It's so closely related that it's good to understand both. That's just my take. I have a "How to write a blues song" hub where you can watch me play a blues song I wrote on acoustic.

William Cobb from Columbia, SC on April 01, 2010:

I hear electrics are much easier to play than acoustics... Is that true?

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