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This article was originally published in issue #33
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The F-style “scroll” body shape is the definitive Bluegrass mandolin, having been seen in the hands of everyone who is anyone from Bill Monroe onwards. Tanglewood’s take on this iconic instrument certainly has the look down pat although, in a departure from the norm, its back and sides are made from linden (lime) wood as opposed to the classic maple construction that you might expect.
The remaining parts of the mandolin remain true to the tradition, with a maple neck and rosewood fingerboard, a solid spruce top, a floating, adjustable, rosewood bridge and a sunburst finish. Chrome tuners with pearloid buttons, a black scratchplate and a chrome tailpiece make up the hardware contingent.
Build quality, fit and finish, as we’ve grown to expect these days, was good and playability on the factory set-up was quite good, although a bit more attention from your retailer’s luthier would pay definite dividends. A gig-bag or a light case would be my recommendation if you’re going to be taking this mandolin out and about as the decorative points that are a feature of its body shape can be, in my experience, a bit vulnerable in transit.
String-to-string balance was fairly even but, although tone and chop were present, the Cove Creek sounded a bit too tight and restrained overall for my taste. An F-style mandolin has to have real volume to stand up against the banjo and rhythm guitar in a bluegrass band and you’d have to work a bit to manage that with this mandolin.