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This article was originally published in issue #40
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Art & Lutherie comes from a Canadian hot bed of small guitar makers situated around Quebec. Along with Seagull and Simon & Patrick, these brands all come under the Godin umbrella and pride themselves on being handcrafted from 95% sustainable Canadian wood. And why not! Canada is a huge country with a lot of space and a lot of trees, so using local resources keeps the costs down and the quality up. It's all done in a very eco-friendly way too, because Art & Lutherie use wood from previously fallen trees in eastern Canada. No clear cutting or deforestation is involved, which is very good to know. If we guitarists actually stopped and thought for second about what has happened to the forests of the world over the last 50 years in order to make our precious high end guitars, we would hopefully feel a little pang of guilt. So, no guilt with our review guitar the Art & Lutherie Folk.
I have to confess to some confusion about the materials used on this nice looking guitar. Most of the models in this Folk size range from A&L have cedar tops but our sample had an antique stained spruce top. You can have either a cedar or a spruce version and we had the spruce model, though I misidentified it as cedar when I was filming my review. It's hard to tell under that finish! Whichever version you choose, all the tops on these guitars are apparently pressure tested to give the highest stiffness and maximum harmonic vibration. I'm presuming this is a process of pressurising the wood to make it denser and more rigid, which would have the side effect of making it very sensitive to vibration, but I don't claim to be a luthier!
In addition to the pressure testing, A&L's guitars are finished in a satin sheen which the maker calls a custom varnish finish, and which apparently allows the guitar to breathe and most importantly, age. A well made acoustic will age gracefully and sound better and better as the years go by. This guitar sounds very nice now, but wouldn't it be interesting to compare how 30 years of playing would improve the tone! They also have semi-gloss and gloss options, but I like the satin look on this one.
The back and sides are a very attractive wild cherry, which seems to be a lovely reddish brown wood that looks great and suits the whole look of the guitar. I'm guessing that wild cherry wood imparts the warmth and depth of tone and the spruce top gives it the high end definition. It would be interesting to try his spruce topped model next to a cedar one to see just what the tonal difference between the two is.
The body shape is defined as 'Folk' which is a comfortable size for any player. It doesn't have the volume and bass of a dreadnought, but is not far off. Acoustic buffs say certain size acoustic guitars suit certain playing styles or music, which is true, but I see no reason why this guitar can't cater for all acoustic needs. There is an onboard Godin pre-amp which makes the guitar even more versatile, on stage or in the studio. The pre-amp sounds great and is simple and easy to navigate. The spec for this guitar says it's an EPM Quantum 1, but I just saw the name Godin on it.
The fingerboard and bridge are matching rosewood, and maybe these are the parts of the guitar that were not found fallen in the Canadian forest - still, you can't have everything. The neck on the other hand is made from silver leaf maple, which is the fourth tone wood used on this guitar. The neck is comfortable will be just right for most players, being pretty middle of the road in its dimensions.
Again, the intonation seemed very good all over the neck. Some acoustics, even expensive ones, can be a compromise with certain chord voicings, but this one sounds nicely in tune in any position. The neck should be very stable and be able to take environmental and temperature changes in its stride because A&L says that it uses an integrated set neck system that is very resistant to warping and twisting. The neck also has a double function truss rod should you need to tweak it.
We liked this guitar even without knowing its price - but when we found out what it's selling for, we had to do a bit of a quick rethink because we'd assumed it was twice the price! At double the money it would be a very creditable guitar without, perhaps, being outstanding. But at the asking price, we think this one is a steal - a Canadian made, mostly hand-crafted acoustic guitar built from good quality woods at the price of a mass produced, factory made Chinese guitar from one of the lesser known brands. How could you possibly go wrong?
Art & Lutherie offers a large range of guitars, with 6 and 12 string versions, dreadnoughts, cutaways, folk or parlour body sizes, nylon or steel strings, and some striking colours and finishes. If this guitar is anything to go by, then they certainly deserve your interest and attention.