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If you're looking for the South East Michigan Bluegrass Music Association (A fine group of Bluegrass fans in South East Michigan) you can find them at http://smbluegrass.org/

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Right In Our Own Back Yard: Woodward Guitar Co. and MacMillan Guitars Demo Days at the Music Man

Novara and MacMillan Share some Secrets of the Trade
Sometimes the greatest thing in life are right there, under you nose, hiding in plain sight.  Nowhere is that more true that right her in Southeast Michigan.  Last Saturday, almost within walking distance of my house, three truly unique entities came together to create something magical.  At first glance, you might be tempted to think that this "Demo Day" was just a cliche' weekend sales gimmick from another, unassuming strip mall music shop, and you couldn't be further from the truth.  For starters, The Music Man in Brighton is far from another cookie-cutter guitar store--offering a great selection of high-quality guitars from all the best manufacturers (Fender, Martin, Taylor, Gibson and the list goes on) as well as exceptional customer service, knowledgable sales staff and talented instructors for persons--young and old--wanting to learn to play nearly any instrument.  There is something for everyone at "The Man".   Secondly, the two guitar makers showcasing their wares (Woodward Guitar Co. and MacMillan Guitars) produce not only superb, high-end guitars, but heirloom quality  instruments with a story worth telling--and both makers have a strong connections to SouthEast Michigan to boot!

This Home Became a New Guitar--Cool, Right?
The Woodward Guitar company owes it's start to detective and amateur woodworker Curt Novara making a trip to Reclaim Detroit in search of some wood to make furniture for his house.  For those not familiar, Reclaim Detroit specializes in salvaging building materials from blighted homes in Detroit that would otherwise be sent to the landfill.  As an amateur musician, Novara stumbled on a nice piece of old-growth Douglas Fir and realized that he could turn this piece of reclaimed timber into a great sounding electric guitar.  From those humble beginnings grew the Woodward Guitar Company offering a Les Paul inspired semi-hollowbodied "Standard" model and the Telecaster-inspired  solidbody "Telegraph" model.  An electric bass has recently joined the lineup as well.  The real standouts are the Telegraph models that feature reclaimed wood throughout, high-quality components and locally wound, custom pickups.  Traditional construction and classic nitrocellulose finishes give these guitars oodles of character, and Novara will work with the buyer to customize the builds to suit their playing style (just browse the website to see the depth and breadth of configurations he's already built!).  The coolest thing of all however--and what really gives these guitars personality and soul--is the Certificate of Authenticity that accompanies each guitar.  Along with a photo, you get the address and the story of the home the timber came from and how it was "reborn" in to the guitar.  Custom engraved heel-plates also feature a picture of the home on each guitar.   From twangy county-style chicken pickin', tone-dripping blues solos and even some Detroit-style funky rock-n-roll guitar riffs, these guitars sound GREAT.  If you're in the market for a one-of-a-kind guitar at a remarkably reasonable price, look to the Woodward Guitar company.  You won't be sorry.  A selection of Woodward Guitars are on display at the Music Man, as well as Motor City Guitars in Waterford  and Detroit Guitars in Birmingham. Or check out their website.

Sound Even Better Than They Look!
Also on display were the finely hand-crafted guitars of  Nashville luthier Marty MacMillan.  A Brighton area native, MacMillan made a name for himself building spectacular custom guitars, and has moved his operation to Mount Juliet Tennessee.  Returning to his roots, he brought five great guitars with him to show off.  These are beautiful instruments with woods picked not only for tonal quality, but for  beauty and character.  Like his binding, inlays and finishing, MacMillan eschews super-exotic woods and treatments, instead choosing simple elegance, immaculate construction and classic styling to set his guitars apart.  Most of the guitars he brought were "Orchestral" (OM) models (some with deeper, "dreadnought" depth) and, in the hands of some remarkably talented customers, sounded amazing.   These are sweet guitars producing the type of layered and complex tone you'd expect from guitars costing ten times more.  I got a chance to play the Maple dreadnought Marty brought with him.  The warm burst coloring on top and sides was exquisite, as was the classically understated herringbone binding.  This guitar would be right at home at any bluegrass jam.   As expected from a maple-bodied guitar, the tone was bright and clear, with subtly nuanced harmonics and crystal clear note separation.  I didn't expect the powerful bass tones this guitar produced--capable of standing up to any banjo player you know!  I have to admit, I loved this guitar.  Check out Marty's website for information on how to order yours today.

I've included some photos below.  Please feel free to check them out (or look for the whole gallery on the SeMiBluegrass Facebook page.