I finally got the Cutlass today, needs new strings but otherwise it's pretty much exactly what I hoped it would be. I'll make a NGD thread when I have the time where I'll go more in detail, thanks for taking the time to post here!

Because this forum makes it a pain in the butt to do multi quotes I'll just copy paste what I'm responding to:

"What bridge pickup did you put into your Valentine?"

- A Bare Knuckle VHII, absolutely killer sounding pickup and one of my favourites of the 20+ I've ever tried! I have plans to put that in the Cutlass as well, not because the stock one sounds bad but I can't stand the plastic cover... Looks like something that could have been sold at Toys R Us, doesn't belong in a guitar of this caliber IMHO.

"As for the OP question about body wood, you can't blame alder wood on the sounds you're hearing with the humbucker in question - though you never mentioned the humbucker you're using. Pickups, body wood, neck wood, bridge, saddles, nut, pots - they all contribute to the signal coming out of the guitar. A combination of things may work great for one guitar/amp and sound like crap for another. Sounds like you need to experiment with pickups a bit more, figure out the natural tones of the guitar first then choose pickups and amp settings based on that (not what worked for another guitar)."

- You're right, I can't blame alder as a wood species, but I can (and do) blame the guitar itself - whatever it was that caused it exactly, the wood or bridge or whatever. The pickup in question was a Bare Knuckle VHII, I've tried that pickup in a dozen guitars or so and never had any issues with the low end, not even in a Les Paul. There was a Duncan JB in the Strat before the VHII, and it had the same issue only worse. But I guess it's unfair of me expect a cheap Mexican Strat to match a EBMM.

"The Cutlass and Valentine are worlds apart tonally, IMO, in the same way (if not more) than a Tele and Strat."

- Not sure if I agree, BUT my Valentine doesn't have stock pickups. The only things making them different now are swamp ash vs alder, and tremolo vs hardtail. But that's exactly what I wanted anyway, a guitar that can retain the bridge humbucker tone from the Valentine and also do some Stratty tones with a great tremolo. They don't sound exactly the same, but I can hear what I like to call the "EBMM signature character" in both of them.