After he made a name for himself in the electric-guitar market of the 1990s, British luthier Patrick James Eggle moved to North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains and immersed himself in U.S. music culture and guitar making. Upon returning to his native country, in 2005, he devoted his energy to hand-making bespoke steel-string acoustic guitars using golden-era designs as points of departure.
A guitar produced in Eggle’s shop requires no small investment. But thanks to his association with Faith Guitars, which produces imported examples of his trademark designs, his instruments are within reach of a much wider selection of musicians. I checked out Faith’s FMSB45-BNC, also known as the Classic Burst Mercury, a lovely, modern parlor with boutique-like flourishes.
Like all Faith guitars, the Classic Burst Mercury is made from solid, eco-friendly FSC-certified woods at the company’s workshop in West Java, Indonesia. It does have that imported-guitar vibe, thanks to its polyurethane lacquer finish and its chemical-rich aroma. But unlike the typical budget guitar, it’s very well-built. The frets are cleanly dressed and the sunburst finish is perfectly graduated—inside the box things are relatively neat and tidy.
This Mercury cuts a nice figure with its narrow waist—just over 13 inches wide—and its minimal appointments. The guitar’s design nicely splits the difference between the traditional and the modern. Its dark reddish-brown burst, along with the deep stain on the sides, back, and neck, calls to mind the finish on early 1900s Gibsons. Instead of the traditional joint, the neck has got a bolt-on assembly, for ease of repair, and in the place of a Venetian or Florentine cutaway is a scoop that minimizes the loss of space inside the body.
The short-scale, 12-fret Mercury initially feels diminutive to a player accustomed to 14-fret OMs. But it hardly takes any time to grow accustomed to this lightweight specimen. It’s a joy to play, its slightly high action not withstanding. A slender, C-shaped neck, 16-inch radius fretboard, and jumbo frets give the guitar a sleek modern feel. The neck’s short scale makes it easy to play stretchy chords, but our review model’s wide nut (about 1.77 inches) gives both the fret- and pick-hand fingers plenty of space to do their work.
Probably owing to the guitar’s cedar-and-mahogany construction, not to mention its 12th-fret neck junction, the Mercury has a lovely voice—it sounds warm and lush, with a beautifully reverberant effect when the notes are played with emphasis. The guitar is highly responsive to the most delicate fingerpicking, and it also performs winningly when strummed at a moderate volume. Single-note lines on the instrument take on a vocal-like quality.
The Mercury really recommends itself to old-timey styles like the country blues and ragtime, as do most guitars of its stripe. Though the overall sound is pretty, it does have a nice midrange bark when you dig into the strings. That’s not to say that the guitar is a one-trick pony: It works terrifically well, for instance, in giving a pianistic treatment to the jazz standard “A Child Is Born,” the complex harmonies ringing with clarity.
Parlor guitars being so popular these days, the FMSB45-BNC is an excellent choice for anyone looking to explore the sonic possibilities inherent in this old-school body type—without a huge outlay of cash.
Solid red-cedar top
Solid mahogany back and sides
Figured Macassan ebony bridge
Mahogany neck with figured Macassan ebony fretboard
610mm scale length
45mm nut (as reviewed)
Grover Rotomatic tuners
$1,349 MSRP, $1,050 street
Made in Indonesia