Posted by Adam Perlmutter
(Special thanks to Brad Barr of the Barr Brothers.)
Gretsch’s G9201 Honey Dipper resonator guitar might be a modern instrument, but its sound transports you to another era. Just a handful of notes on the instrument will conjure up black-and-white images of players hunched over their guitars on front porches in the Deep South.
The Honey Dipper is part of Gretsch’s Roots Collection, which uses 1920s and ’30s fretted instruments as inspiration for contemporary designs. As with other entries in the series, the guitar successfully merges vintage-approved sound with modern playability, all in an affordable package.
The Honey Dipper has a bell brass body housing Gretsch’s Ampli-Sonic biscuit-bridge cone (handspun in Eastern Europe from 99-percent pure aluminum), giving the instrument the characteristically brash tone of a single-cone resonator. The rounded neck is made from mahogany and capped with a rosewood fretboard.
The guitar not only sounds old but looks old, thanks to its vintage cosmetic details. Cutouts on the cone’s cover plate form a beautiful poinsettia design that pairs nicely with the top’s twin segmented f-holes. The headstock, which has a 1930s paddle-shaped silhouette, is capped with a layer of pearloid, a matching truss-rod cover, and an old-school Gretsch logo. Open-geared Grover Sta-Tite tuners with black buttons complete the antique effect, as does a lightly distressed finish treatment on the body.
The review model is soundly built, with all of the cutout areas on the metal body perfectly uniform. The guitar’s 19 jumbo frets are smoothly crowned and polished, without any jaggedness at their edges, and the bone nut is cleanly notched. On the neck, a honey-stained semi-gloss finish is smoothly applied and free from imperfections, except for a hint of flaking at the neck-to-body junction on the treble side—an area unseen when you’re playing.
Primed for Delta Blues & Beyond
At eight pounds, seven ounces, the Honey Dipper is on the hefty side, but it sits nicely on your lap and feels well-balanced between its wooden neck and metal body. Designed to be fretted conventionally, it’s built with a rather large, medium-V-shape neck (instead of square, as on instruments built to be played exclusively in the bottleneck style), a profile that vintage aficionados will find inviting. The factory-set action is a little high at the 12th fret for my preference, but on the plus side, this makes it easier to play slide.
The Honey Dipper has an exciting sound, loud and lively, with an impressive natural reverb. Each note is full of color and information. Though the instrument’s voice lends authenticity to playing in the mold of original Delta Blues practitioners like Son House or Bukka White, it also sounds great for fare not ordinarily associated with the resonator. I played Thelonious Monk’s “Ugly Beauty,” in dropped-D tuning, and the Honey Dipper added unexpected tonal shadings to this idiosyncratic waltz.
Gretsch’s G9201 Honey Dipper might not have the mojo of a 1930s National, but it offers an excellent approximation, with a classic sound and smart appearance to match. The guitar would be a good choice for a player looking to branch out into Delta blues territory, or one who wants to casually explore the timbral possibilities in a resonator instrument—for only a minimal cash outlay.
Bell brass body with single-cone resonator and ebony-tipped maple biscuit bridge
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25-inch scale length
1.75-inch bone nut
Grover Sta-Tite die-cast tuners
D’Addario EJ16 phosphor bronze strings (.012–.053)
Optional gig bag
PRICE $879 list/$529 street
Made in China