destination music shop
OVER ONE YEAR HAS PASSED since our seminal article on Acoustic Vibes Music of Tempe AZ. What has Jeff Looker been up to? “I need to order more mandolins”, says he, standing in front of the largest selection of high-end mandolins in North American. Right next to the new Gibson display. His agenda, to the layman, seems to be Buy Buy! BUY!
Direct from manufacturers, Jeff Looker continues to purchase the finest acoustic instruments made in America. Supporting smaller shops by giving their product exposure. A steady turnover of production from the larger players. First name basis with all the owners. Familiarity with his competition, which they are not. Not competitors, but friends, mentors, peers, proteges, fellow enthusiasts in the tradition and innovation of American guitarmaking.
Where else could one find three custom Collings MT2 mandolins? SIX Martin 000 guitars may be uncommon to stock. Except FIVE of these are from the Martin Custom Shop, special-ordered by Jeff himself. Everything is ordered by Jeff. He’s running the train. It keeps pulling into the station with more and more inventory from American manufacturers.
A goal without a plan is a dream. Jeff’s goal is to have the finest acoustic instrument shop in America. What started as an order for six Santa Cruz guitars almost a decade ago has become the best-stocked high-end acoustic guitar shop in the Western Hemisphere. Add in mandolins ∆ and banjos, and you’ve got the premier Destination Music Shop of The Americas.
Chance brings me back to Acoustic Vibes Music in Arizona, home of the finest collection of high-end acoustic instruments for sale in the Western Hemisphere. Today I choose for examination a Collings MF. “Simplified appointments” is how Collings described the absence of fancy binding, purfling, and perhaps finish. I call it clean and functional.
In hand and eye, this MF exhibits perfect craftsmanship. The hidden quality is quick to exhibit itself. Within just a few notes, clear pure tone reinforces the Collings workshop pedigree. The MF plays perfectly, with all attentions possible paid to feel as well as sound.
With a fully carved Adirondack spruce top and maple back and sides, the MF is built with the same quality construction as our fully-appointed models. These instruments produce the rich, woody tone that one would expect from a professional quality mandolin at an affordable price. – Collings
Thanks again to AVM employee Kathryn Butler for these beautiful images! You have a future as a fine arts photographer! Lets not forget Jeff Looker’s interesting observation. Jeff and I were standing in the mandolin room for photos (an upcoming feature). Tidying up the display, he remarked, “I’ll have to order a few more mandolins”. There were about eight each Weber and Collings – $60,000+ worth. How’s that for dedication to the American acoustic instrument tradespeople?
Jeff Looker had turned his retirement plan into a destination instrument shop. Hundreds of high-end acoustic guitars. Santa Cruz! Collings! Half a dozen Martin Custom Shop 000’s. A chance visit with this rare grouping kept me repeatedly occupied.
Humbly I ask Dana Bourgeois to forgive my inattention to his guitars. Not until the seventh or eighth visit did I try a Bourgeois. A simple mahogany OM short scale with Sitka spruce top. The package of options Bourgeois calls their Country Boy*. I was holding a Bourgeois Country Boy OM Short Scale.
Wow! Where have you been my whole life, darlin’?
Giddy with anticipation, the OM begins playing as soon as my hand rests upon the fingerboard. My reaction, with no hyperbole nor financial compensation: This is the finest mahogany guitar I have ever played!
“That isn’t me. What kind of trick is this?” Looking down, I’m astonished to see the guitar nearly playing itself, my fingers immediately at home on this newly met field of frets. I lean back, enjoy the music, and listen to a perfect guitar.
Country Boy sports a complete sound. Absolute balance across the spectrum. Not cocky, but confident. The tone mature, captivating. Clearly not a production-line product but a construction lovingly born of faith and imagination.
More description? OK, try this: Punchy midsection. Perfect intonation. Powerful resonance. No mud, conspicuously lacking in the usual trouble area, midrange chords up the neck. The guitar is full & open. Again, it makes me play far better than usual. My fingers move across fretboard as thought listening to someone else.
Even light groups of notes up the neck on the lower strings resonate perfectly with nary a misplaced overtone. Country Boy has soul, a perfect transcendental musical experience.
After two visits with Country Boy, I am a believer. Jeff also stocks the Adirondack top Country Boy OM, but the Sitka is the one which talks to me with gracious warmth, forever my friend.
* When Ricky Skaggs suggested the name “Country Boy” for our mahogany dreadnought, we all fell on the floor. We still wonder where he got such a great idea for a name! Admittedly, depending on which Body Style is used with this traditional combination of spruce and mahogany, you can get pretty far removed from anything remotely “country” in look and sound. Over the years we have considered changing the name but we can’t, it was a gift! – bourgeoisguitars.net