A modern 12-fret OM built with a redwood top and master-grade Brazilian rosewood back and sides.
by Teja Gerken
May 18, 2020
Luthier Dana Bourgeois has been building steel-string guitars inspired by classic American designs for more than 40 years. Dana’s collaboration with Eric Schoenberg in the 1980s played a major part in the revival of OM-style guitars (check out Eric’s demo of the Bourgeois Soloist 30th Commemorative LE), and his instruments are universally considered to be among the finest contemporary flattops around. Now running Bourgeois Guitars, a small production shop located in Lewiston, Maine, Dana continues to honor tradition while also seeking to move steel-string guitar design forward. I recently had a chance to check out one of the company’s latest efforts, the Bourgeois OMSC Odyssey, which was generously made available to us by Down Home Guitars.
The OMSC Odyssey is part of Bourgeois’ “Luthier’s Choice” series, which consists of one-of-a-kind instruments designed by Dana that often feature highly contemporary design elements not found in Bourgeois’s standard models. As the “OMS” part of the model designation indicates, the guitar is based on Bourgeois’s original 12-fret OM body style, and Dana chose redwood for the guitar’s top and master-grade Brazilian rosewood for the back and sides. Both sets are nothing short of spectacular; the redwood features incredibly tight, straight grain and even color, and the Brazilian rosewood offers beautiful figure and rich color. The guitar’s construction includes several elements that aren’t found on Bourgeois’s standard models. The most obvious of these are the armrest bevel, soundport in the bass side, and “offset braid” rosette consisting of several offset black-and-white rings. On the inside, the guitar’s back is braced with a lattice pattern that consists of two X-shapes, which Dana feels allows for greater control of the back’s vibration than standard ladder-style back bracing. The guitar has a snakewood bridge and fingerboard, and the cocobolo fingerboard inlay enhances the organic overall appearance of the OMSC Odyssey. The guitar’s open-geared tuning machines, another cool addition, are made by a new Italian company called K-TAR. With a sleek, modern design, these machines are a perfect match for the OMSC Odyssey’s fusion of vintage and contemporary elements.
Taking the guitar out of its custom Calton case, the first thing I noticed was how comfortable it was to hold. The armrest bevel is perfectly placed, and the combination of the OMSC body with 12-fret neck make it easy to reach first position. When I began playing, it became clear that the OMSC Odyssey is a total fingerstyle machine. The lightweight yet stiff redwood top helps create an incredibly sensitive and quick response, yet the instrument followed right along when I dug in harder, delivering a highly complex tonality. The guitar has a bit more of a pronounced midrange than most traditional OMs, and it has great clarity in its highs, producing an ultra-clear sound with a wonderful overall balance. The instrument’s playability was excellent, with a more contemporary-feeling neck than those on Bourgeois’s vintage-inspired models.
All in all, the Bourgeois OMSC Odyssey is a stunning guitar. Bourgeois instruments have long featured unique design and construction innovations, but with the Luthier’s Choice series, Dana and his company are taking a more extroverted approach than in the past, creating instruments that combine tradition, contemporary ideas, first-rate materials, and precise craftsmanship like few others.
SPECS: OMSC body with 12-fret neck. Redwood top. Master-grade Brazilian rosewood back and sides. Mahogany neck. Snakewood fretboard and bridge. Cocobolo binding. 25.5-inch scale. 1¾-inch nut width. Soundport with matching bezel. Armrest bevel. Animal protein glue construction. Black K-TAR tuners. Made in the USA. $22,965 list. bourgeoisguitars.net
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