Martin D-18 Jason Isbell Review

With aged Adirondack Over Mighty Mahogany, the D-18 Jason Isbell is more stallion than workhorse

As unpretentious and as powerful as the songs of its namesake.

Specs Include: Solid tonewoods with extra-thin high gloss nitrocellulose finish, including mahogany back and sides, torrefied Adirondack spruce top; 5/16” rear-shifted Adirondack spruce braces with Golden Era style scalloping; satin finished one-piece mahogany neck with 1939 profile, two-way adjustable truss rod, and ebony fingerboard with 1-11/16” width at the bone nut, 2-1/8” at the 12th fret; ebony pyramid bridge with 2-1/8” string spacing at the drop-in compensated bone saddle; custom tattoo fretboard inlay; Ditson style rosette; black binding; Schaller open-back tuners with “clover” buttons; Fishman Infinity Matrix electronics; signed interior label

“Simply put, this guitar sounds huge. Explosive chords burst into the room with near-concussive waves of power and punch, and relaxed, expressive picking lights up an expansive tonal chamber, as if by ballroom chandeliers.”

D-18 Jason Isbel Ditson tatoo inlay
Full Review with Video Here

Update on D-28 Brazilian and D-45 Brazilian Pricing

List prices on the limited edition Brazilian Rosewood D-28B and D-45B are considerably less than originally reported

$15,999 and $36,000 respectively

When having lunch with the three main instrument designers for C. F. Martin & Co. they could not remember what pricing was ultimately set for these special guitars. There estimate of $20K and $45K turned out to be rather high.

The actual prices will make each guitar more obtainable – except for the fact there are only fifteen 45s being built, and at most fifty 28s.

Please enjoy the following daydream:

Martin D-28 B D-45 B specs 90dpi

Martin D-28 (2017) Review

Full-bodied tone is at the heart of Martin’s new D-28

Vintage looks and a modern neck combine with forward-shifted bracing to create an even higher standard for the classic rosewood dreadnought

“It is an invigorated version of the classic D-28. When a player wants to dig in and drives the top, it can get quite throaty and even growly. And yet, light fingerpicking sounds buoyant and cheerfully expressive. On the whole, the D-28 (2017) is one particularly versatile Martin, with a new kind of dreadnought voice, even if it is made to look more like a vintage D-28 than its predecessor.”

Martin D-28 2017 Style 28 trim

Full Review With Video

“With its retro styling and ultra-modern neck, the new 2017 model is a souped up enhancement of the straight-braced D-28, given a more powerful engine, with a roomier interior.”

Martin D-28B and D-45B Brazilian Rosewood Edition

Martin is making a small edition of Brazilian rosewood dreadnoughts, called the D-28B and D-45B.

They were offered for sale at Summer NAMM in Nashville (currently happening this weekend.)

I remembered to ask about this while having lunch with a group of folks from Martin executives and senior management, just before I returned to NYC. They could not remember off hand exactly how many D-28B and D-45 guitars are being made. But it is an equal number, and Martin dealers are required to buy one of each if they want any at all.

So, to be able to sell the $20K list price D-28B, a dealer must also purchase for sale the $45K list price D-45B. Prices are approximate, as they were speaking off hand in a restaurant out of town, so the specifics where not readily available.

UPDATE: As promised here is more information about these models.

* They are making 15 D-45B instruments. They are making the same amount of the D-28B.

* Both instruments are made with hide glue construction throughout.

* Both instruments have Grade 8 Adirondack spruce tops.

* Both instruments get bracing pattern DOMLE #3A, which I believe translates to “forward shifted.” (DOM means 14-fret dreadnought, LE means limited edition, i.e. not standard.)

* The 45 gets GE scalloped bracing.

* The 28 gets Standard scalloped bracing. (i.e. Vintage Series, D-45, 42, 41, HD-28)

* Both instruments have the traditional fingerboard taper.

* The 45 gets a 1-3/4″ Modified V neck

* The 28 gets a 1-3/4″ Low Profile neck

* Both instruments get the drop-in long saddle with 2-5/16″ spacing.

* The 45 gets grained ivoroid binding

* The 28 gets Antique White boltaron binding.

* The 28 gets the fine herringbone purfling, long-pattern diamonds and squares fret markers, zig-zag back strip of the Marquis/GEs.

* The 45 gets the snowflakes fingerboard, mitered corners on the purfling, and wood fiber trim of the Marquis/GEs.

* Both instruments get Aging toner, but the 45 does not get it on the purfling or rosette. (Same toner currently used on the Standard OM-28 and new D-28.)

If you are interested, I would write Martin and ask for a list of dealer who bought them.


Bourgeois Guitars – New Factory, New President

Dana Bourgeois will continue to build guitars in Lewiston, Maine, at a new location

Forced to move, a fortuitous reunion led to a unique solution, and a new President of Bourgeois Guitars

As described at the official Bourgeois website, Dana ran into an old friend at a college reunion, who has considerable experience with upper-level management. That friend, Bob Smallwood, has been retired for some time, from business, but was keeping busy as a volunteer fireman, instructor, and musician. But now he has joined forces with Dana Bourgeois and along with his wife, has relocated to Maine to take over as President, Chief Operating Officer, and Chief Financial Officer. He has already been responsible for locating the site of the new guitar factory and oversaw its creation.

“The Smallwood home is located in the glorious rocky mountains outside of Estes Park, Colorado. Bob was the Assistant Fire Chief and Medical Training Director of the Glen Haven Volunteer Fire Department. Sonjia, a 100lb firefighter and emergency medical responder, was decorated with Bob for heroism during the floods of 2013. Bob and Sonjia volunteered at the same food bank in Estes Park when they met and fell in love 6 years ago. Together they were part of the music entertainment scene in Colorado’s northern mountain communities. Now, they have stepped from one adventure to another by relocating to Maine to join Dana at Bourgeois Guitars. They are excited to help write the next chapter for this venerable brand.”

We very much wish the Smallwoods and Dana very good luck as this new chapter unfolds!

Martin Guitars Now Shipping With Untreated Strings

A String Change on Martin Guitars

About time too!

As of the introduction of the new Summer NAMM models, C. F. Martin & Co. is no longer shipping guitars to dealers with Martin Lifespan strings, treated to increase longevity.

They will now arrive at Martin dealers with their SP – Studio Performance strings. All the guitars at the NAMM show and appearing in my reviews (of the guitars debuting in July 2017 and thereafter) have SPs.

The Lifespan strings are actually the exact same strings as SP strings, but the windings have been treated with a substance that resists corrosion.

Martin does not consider Lifespans to be “coated strings,” like those made by Elixir and similar brands, since the treatment happens to the alloy windings before they are wrapped on the wire. But they do change the tone of the strings and therefore the guitars they go on.

The goal of shipping Martins with Lifespans was to keep the tone of new guitars from getting dull in guitar shops from all the many people playing them, and because shops rarely keep up on wiping strings down, or changing them on a regular basis.

But Martin has decided to heed the call from players who feel treated strings never have the same level of vibrancy as untreated strings.

I wonder if it mean a difference in guitar sales in this questionable economy. Here’s to hoping so.

Bill Collings Died on July 14, 2017

Bill Collings has passed away

Very sad news from Austin, Texas, where he built a world-renowned stringed instrument business from scratch

From the Collings Website:

We lost our dear friend and mentor Bill Collings yesterday. He was the amazingly creative force behind Collings Guitars for over 40 years. Through his unique and innate understanding of how things work, and how to make things work better, he set the bar in our industry and touched many lives in the process. His skill and incredible sense of design were not just limited to working with wood, but were also obvious in his passion for building hot rods. To Bill, the design and execution of elegant form and function were what mattered most. Perhaps even more exceptional than his ability to craft some of the finest instruments in the world, was his ability to teach and inspire. He created a quality-centered culture that will carry on to honor his life’s work and legacy. He was loved by many and will be missed. Our hearts are with his family.

William R. Collings
8/9/1948 – 7/14/2017