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The Definitive Article
Wildwoodians, it is my pleasure to present you with one of the rarest, coolest acoustic guitars ever to grace our shelves: a Froggy Bottom F Deluxe made with mahogany from The Tree
. If you're unfamiliar with The Tree, you might be wondering why it deserves those capital letters. Well, when it comes to mahogany, The Tree is the definitive article. Despite the best efforts of many wood hunters, no one has EVER found a mahogany tree with quilted grain like The Tree. The Tree is literally one-of-a-kind, and its wood has attained holy grail status among acoustic aficionados both for its beauty and its sonic characteristics.
Part of what makes The Tree so remarkable is the long, circuitous path it took towards becoming tonewood. Loggers first felled the enormous hundred-foot-tall, ten-foot-wide Tree in 1965, but it fell into a ravine on the way out. It laid there for about a decade until an enterprising rare wood hunter importer sought it out. It was so massive that they had to cut it into sixteen pieces, and even then only one piece would fit on their logging truck at a time.
As soon as Novak hit the market with his find, luthiers and furniture makers jumped all over themselves trying to get as much wood from The Tree as possible. Instrument makers quickly found that The Tree's wood was denser than normal, which gave it supercharged tone. Because the instruments made of the tree astounded players with their jaw-dropping looks and monster sound, they quickly inhabited the same rarefied air as guitars built with Milagro Brazilian rosewood. So, the Tree's name is spoken in hushed tones in the world of lutherie, but let's switch gears and talk about how this guitar sounds when it sings loud and proud!
I have a sinking feeling that this guitar is not going to stay at Wildwood for long, and that is heartbreaking for me, but you grow accustomed to the occasional case six-string separation anxiety. What I am not accustomed to, however, is guitars that sound like this. As Wildwood's resident scribe, I have had the privilege of playing hundreds of the finest acoustics on the planet, and I can safely say that I have never heard a guitar with a voice quite like this one.
There are a few factors at play that give this F Deluxe such a singular voice. Though the back and sides hog all the limelight, the old-growth German spruce top does a lot of heavy lifting. German spruce is a marvelous tonewood: like Adirondack spruce, it has a great blend of brightness and warmth and lots of headroom. But it has a rounder, more vintage-y overall tonality--our acoustic expert describes it as a tonewood for "people who want the sound of a broken-in Adirondack top without waiting for fifteen years." I am happy to report that it showcases this broken-in quality on this F Deluxe!
The F Deluxe's body shape also shapes its sound. It's as long and wide as a dreadnought, but it's significantly shallower. So, it still has plenty of power and fullness, but its voice is a bit more sculpted and balanced than a dread.
This configuration really allows the spectacular sound of The Tree to shine through. Though it certainly exhibits many of the characteristics we expect from mahogany (warmth, punchiness, roundness, balance), The Tree's mahogany is a galaxy away from other mahogany I've heard. Mahogany tends to sound very "dry," which means that it produces a strong fundamental with lighter overtone response. This guitar still belts out a strong fundamental, but it also has a beautiful overtone presence. Though it doesn't have the same level of richness as a rosewood-bodied acoustic, it has much more harmonic complexity and liveliness than any other mahogany-bodied acoustic I've ever played. Yet, it still maintains mahogany's essential characteristics! It baffles me, but I've come to expect that from the wizards at Froggy Bottom.
All in all, I would give this guitar an A-plus for strumming and flatpicking and an A-plus for fingerstyle. It is truly a holy grail instrument, and if you enjoy the tone of spruce and mahogany (and who doesn't?) this guitar just might make you contemplate guitar monogamy.