What the heck is going on? Over the past six months or so you can’t swing a cat without hitting somebody’s take on 58957, the ’35 Martin D-28 that made its way from Clarence White to Tony Rice (undergoing a modification or two during its travels) and serves as something of a flatpicker’s Holy Grail. It’s a killer guitar, of course, one that inspired author Art Dudley, in issue five of the Fretboard Journal, to write, “For the most part, every Martin dreadnought is impressive in some way. But 58957 is on another plane. It’s not the loudest D-28 around–although it does have a wider dynamic range than most–nor does it have the deepest of lows or the highest of highs, but it is the most expressive. It sings with a voice that simply can’t be ignored.”
Naturally folks are going to want to reproduce a guitar like that. Santa Cruz says their Tony Rice signature model, dating back 30 years, was “never intended to be a copy of Mr. Rice’s iconic 1935 Martin D-28,” but there it is; Collings has been making a variant (first the “Clarence White,” then the “Collings Winfield”) in its image since 1989; Martin, of course, has got in on the act; Huss & Dalton joined the large aperture club more recently with their Pilgrim model; and now Dana Bourgeois is taking things even a step further, making not just dreadnoughts with enlarged sound holes but OMs, too. Perhaps it shouldn’t be too surprising–the market’s seeing a flood of just about everything, from 99-year-old archtops to classic shred machines, so naturally a few of these very particular instruments are gonna show up, right? Still, they’ve turned our heads, and when something turns our heads, we find a way to tell you about it.
We could’ve done a “Clarence White of the Day” to stretch it out, but instead, here’s a handful of the dozen or so available out there, all at once, in chronological order, for your consideration.
Collings Clarence White (1992)
Here’s a fine example, with an Adirondack spruce top and Brazilian rosewood back and sides, available at The Music Emporium for $8,800. They’ve listed it as a ’92, but note that the label was signed in December of ’91, and describe it as notably clean, with a warmer sound than your typical Collings dreadnought. It sports a lovely set of Brazilian, if not quite as straight-grained as what Martin found 60 years earlier.
Santa Cruz Tony Rice Custom (1993)
Another one from the earlier days, this one from Santa Cruz, available at Willcutt Guitars, sports a Sitka spruce top and Brazilian rosewood back and sides (the Sitka probably contributes to the more modest $7,499 price tag). Willcutt doesn’t go into great detail describing the instrument, beyond calling it a “monster” and noting its “good action and playability.” We dig the Brazilian’s grain, for sure, though the color’s not as even as some.
Martin D-28 CWB (2002)
This example of Martin’s variation on the theme can be found at Pineywoods Vintage Guitars & Collectibles for $8,000. They don’t say much about it, beyond mentioning it’s “HUGE tone,” but there sure are a lot of pictures. It’s got a nice set of Brazilian rosewood and the top (which looks like it’s Adirondack spruce) is clean and aging well. And it’s a Martin.
Santa Cruz Tony Rice Custom Cocobolo (2002)
Santa Cruz offers a number of versions of their Tony Rice signature model, varying largely in terms of wood. Their basic model sports Indian rosewood and a Sitka spruce top; the Professional gets Brazilian rosewood and a European spruce top. This custom example sits somewhere in between, with a German spruce top and a very dark set of straight-grained Cocobolo for the back and sides. Mass Street Music is offering it at $3,950, describing it in truly glowing terms–“an absolutely incredible overall tone”–it’s bright and loud with plenty of bass response and cutting mids. It has a comfortable V-shaped Mahogany neck and Ebony fingerboard, and 20 frets”–and noting a fairly typical amount of wear, dings and finish checking.
Collings CW Mahogany (2002)
Collings has also been offering a parallel universe version of the Clarence White, with a mahogany back and sides, D-18-style. This one (Collings stopped calling them “Clarence White” models in 2000, so it’s a “Collings Winfield”) features an Adirondack spruce top, is in “great condition” and is available from Gryphon Stringed Instruments for $3,475. Gryphon calls it a “flat-picker’s dream,” noting the “headroom, volume and dynamics.”
Bourgeois Vintage D LSH (New)
Dana introduced a large sound hole dreadnought back in 2015, but we haven’t seen many of them. This particular one just showed up at Acoustic Music Works and is available for $10,395. This one has an Adirondack spruce top given Dana’s “Aged Tone” treatment and a sweet set of Brazilian. It varies a bit from the blueprint, with a 1-3/4″ nut (vs. 1-23/32″), and the use of Dana’s “Banjo-Killer” bracing and hide glue is worth noting as well. AMW is unreserved in their praise for this guitar, but they’ve also provided a nice video to back it up.