It’s deeply gratifying to pick the single open-A string on Bedell’s new Revolution Parlor and just sit back and listen to what happens. A rich, cello-like sound, brawnier than expected, emerges from this diminutive guitar. And it hangs in the air for quite a long time with its colorful overtones.
Further exploration of the instrument reveals a similar lushness in all registers and an excellent responsiveness as well. The Revolution’s purr is as attractive as its growl, and, while parlor guitars are typically associated with rootsy idioms, the guitar feels like it’s up for anything, stylistically speaking.
Anyone who’s played a vintage parlor guitar knows that the playability on these instruments can be hit or miss. A big part of what makes the Revolution Parlor such a satisfying instrument is how smoothly it plays. The guitar’s C-shaped, hard-rock maple neck, with perfect low action, feels silky and fast. It’s perfect for the high-velocity lines and knotty chord progressions that a guitar with a lesser setup discourages.
Equally comfortable is the Revolution Parlor’s body, which is scaled down relative to a larger guitar like an orchestra model or dreadnought, but which has a more substantial lower bout than the typical parlor guitar. The instrument has a relatively lightweight build as well—on a digital postal scale, the review model is around four pounds.
As with the other Bedells I’ve auditioned, the Revolution Parlor was built with great care and skill. Its gloss-lacquer finish is faultless and its fretwork is unimpeachably good. The guitar’s interior surfaces have been treated with similar diligence, free of excess glue and tooling marks.
The Revolution Parlor has a wide, expressive range. When I fingerpick major-seventh-chord passages gently, the guitar has a warm, dulcet sound, with plenty of rich overtones; when I play country-blues patterns with a more assertive attack, the guitar kind of snarls, in a good way.
Lowering the guitar to DADGAD and then to open-G tuning—which feels great to do, thanks to the Waverly tuners—I like how the guitar maintains its excellent sound and clarity, without a hint of muddiness, in slackened tunings.
The Revolution Parlor responds just as agreeably to a plectrum as it does to fingerpicking. When I strum some basic open chords with a Red Bear pick, first gently and then heartily, I’m struck by the guitar’s plentiful projection and headroom, likely owing to the Adirondack spruce soundboard. I’m also impressed by the girth and color of single-note lines, particularly on the high-E string, where things often can get brittle.
Tom Bedell has always been thoughtful when it comes to sourcing tonewoods. In search of cocobolo—a member of the dalbergia family, like all rosewood—he took his team to Costa Rica, where they found stunning billets of this tonewood, only to learn that it had been smuggled from Nicaragua. This unfortunate discovery led the team to Nicaragua, where it finally procured cocobolo from a legally run mill.
That cocobolo is used for the back and sides of all the Revolution series guitars, which includes dreadnought and OM models in addition to the parlor. The wood is denser than any of its rosewood relatives, and so Bedell uses its computer-assisted sound profiling technology to determine the optimal thicknesses for the woods—as it happens, relatively thin for the cocobolo.
Aside for the complex tone that it lends to the instrument, what’s striking about cocobolo is its cosmetic beauty. The set used on the review model is intensely figured and has dramatic sapwood (the living, outermost part of the tree) accents. This eye candy extends to the guitar’s ornamental details. A turquoise heel cap complements the bluish hue of the sapwood, and turquoise is also seen as the central motif of the fretboard position markers.
Hardwood flourishes in the binding, rosette, and purfling lend richness to the guitar, as do ebony tuner buttons. And a full-body sunburst—brownish-red at the edges and vibrant orange in the center—looks autumnal and perfectly executed.
In terms of looks and performance, the Revolution isn’t quite like any other parlor guitar on the market. It’s a peach of an instrument, worthy of consideration of anyone on the hunt for a great, small-bodied guitar.
BODY: 12-fret parlor size; Adirondack spruce top; cocobolo back and sides; gloss polyurethane finish
NECK: Hard-rock maple neck; ebony fretboard; 25.5-inch scale length; 1.69-inch nut; gold Waverly tuners;
gloss polyurethane finish
OTHER: D’Addario EXP16 Coated Phosphor Bronze Light strings (.012–.053); deluxe hardshell case
PRICE: $3,990 street
MADE IN: USA
This article originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.