By Jim Downey
I’m 62 now. I bought my first guitar (a Goya nylon string) as a knee jerk reaction to seeing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. And I mean seeing them! I was in the audience for that history making show. Remember when you first started playing? The pain, the seemingly impossible barred F chord and the millions of dissonant choices that eventually fell away as we fell in love with the guitar. Today, I can say that I appreciate the guitar just as much as when the romance was new. Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to own some pretty great instruments. Examples by Dana Bourgeois, Richard Hoover (Santa Cruz) and Bill Collings were each stars in their own little universes. Oddly, I found myself dismissing Martin as a true contender. Sure, a pre-war D28 will certainly humiliate any banjo in its path and once you get up into the more deluxe models, a new Martin will still hold its own against most contenders. I guess, ashamedly, I’d become a guitar snob.
Then everything changed. I was cruising around the internet visiting my usual guitar haunts when I stopped at the Wildwood Music site, drawn to a special order Martin 000C 41. I’d never seen this configuration and it was loaded. Abalone all over the place, 42 and 45 appointments, very luxe — but that’s not what was really important. Because of a long and fruitful relationship with the Custom Shop, Marty and Don of Wildwood had access to a place most customers will never know — Martin’s stash of the absolute best woods on the planet. This guitar boasted their finest Spruce — tight grained, one color all the way across the top with zero run out — truly spectacular. The back and sides were crafted of Dalbergia Spruceana — Amazon rosewood, a wood many consider a very close cousin to it’s illegal-to-import brethren, Brazilian rosewood. Well. I was smitten. This had to be a great guitar. After a few lovely conversations with both Marty and Don during which I came to the conclusion that these two were certifiable guitar aficionados, I pulled the trigger. It was expensive. But I had a gut feeling.
When it arrived — a day late — thanks UPS, I found myself savoring that wonderful Christmas/birthday anticipatory moment that comes just as one opens the case to welcome a special guitar into one’s life. It was stunning in an understated way (if you can consider about three yards of rainbow flashing abalone understated). But the wood was another story altogether. Incredible in color and grain. The Amazon looks for all the world like CITES Brazilian and the spruce is honestly the loveliest I’ve EVER seen. Oh yeah, the sound. I own a 00028 Custom Shop Herringbone with scalloped braces. I thought it sounded fabulous. A-B’d next to this new little opera singer, it sounds well, boxy. They say talking about sound is like dancing about architecture but I can state one thing for sure about my new guitar. It’s like listening to a McIntosh tube stereo after an IPod. It’s got real high fidelity. Well, all I can say after dealing with Marty and Don and then becoming the steward of this killer guitar for as long as I get to keep it is — you can’t go wrong with Wildwood and their privileged relationship with Martin’s top-end custom shop team. Save your pennies boys and girls.