Dana Bourgeois has been building guitars for more than three decades, first as a solo luthier, and now as leader of a small team working in a limited-production environment. Bourgeois has a unique connection to the OM that began when he collaborated with fingerstyle guitarist Eric Schoenberg (who heads his own company, Schoenberg Guitars) and Martin Guitars in the late 1970s to design and build OMs, thereby becoming part of the resurgence of the OM style.
The custom Soloist we received for review is a visually stunning guitar that Bourgeois built for the 2012 Winter NAMM show. The instrument features Macassar ebony back and sides—a departure from the Brazilian rosewood that’s standard on the model—complemented by a heavily bearclawed Italian spruce top. The Soloist has an ebony pyramid-style bridge (the style used on the earliest vintage OMs), bone bridge pins, and a fully compensated bone saddle. The ebony fingerboard has small, understated fossilized mammoth ivory position markers in its side. The satin-finished mahogany neck has a slight V shape and a small volute at the headstock.
The guitar is constructed with lightly scalloped, forward-shifted X-bracing but departs from tradition with a bolt-on neck. The other obvious break with tradition is the distinctive cutaway. The Soloist also has a slightly enlarged four-inch soundhole (traditional Martins measure 3 7/8-inches).
As we passed the guitar around, we all immediately noticed its rich sound, excellent sustain, and abundant overtones that made it perfect for playing lush chords. The tone has a focused midrange, with a tight snappy bass. Gerken observed that he could feel the back vibrating as he played, indicating a responsive and lightly built instrument. Nygaard felt that the guitar exhibited a vintage vibe not unlike the sound of a 1930s Martin, especially when flatpicked in open position. Both Gerken and I appreciated the wider string spacing at the saddle, which made picking-hand fingerstyle work comfortable. Nygaard noticed that it had a tendency to break up a bit under a heavy pick attack, but felt that the guitar had so much sustain and volume that there was little need to play it hard. We all agreed that the overtone-rich sound made the Soloist a great choice for any solo guitar setting.
BODY: Solid Italian spruce top; solid Macassar ebony back and sides.
NECK: Bolt-on mahogany neck; ebony fingerboard and pyramid bridge; 25.5-inch scale; 1 3/4-inch nut width; 2 5/16-inch string spacing at the saddle; gold Waverly tuners.
PRICE: $6,295.50 street