Instruments & Gear: Fine Lutherie

Lowden Richard Thompson Signature Model

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A spectacular mid-size Lowden with a cedar top and ziricote back and sides.

by Teja Gerken
August 23, 2018

Singer-songwriter, guitarist extraordinaire, and roots music icon Richard Thompson began playing Lowden acoustics in the 1980s, and for many years, his companion for acoustic shows was a well-worn L32C. Several years ago, luthier George Lowden suggested collaborating on a new guitar for Richard, and the result is the Richard Thompson Signature Model. We recently had a chance to check out a wonderful example of the guitar, provided to us by Gryphon Stringed Instruments.

The Richard Thompson Signature Model is based on Lowden’s mid-size F body. George Lowden pioneered the use of cedar tops on steel-string guitars, and the Richard Thompson Signature Model we checked out has an exceptional piece of AAAA cedar with beautiful grain and deep, even color. The guitar’s back and sides are made of ziricote with incredibly rich coloring and landscape-like grain patterns. An abalone rosette is the only non-wood appointment. The guitar’s binding and purfling are made of Tasmanian blackwood, sycamore, rosewood, and mahogany; the peghead veneer (front and back) match the ziricote body; and the ebony fingerboard is left plain, like that of a classical guitar. Typical Lowden design elements include a five-piece neck (made of mahogany with rosewood and walnut reinforcement strips) and a pinless bridge with a two-piece saddle. The guitar’s craftsmanship matches the high quality of its materials, with perfect fit and finish and beautifully executed details throughout.

Richard Thompson’’s acoustic playing style includes strumming, hybrid picking, and single-note playing, putting considerable demands on his instrument. But George Lowden was clearly familiar with the task at hand, as the guitar gracefully handles any and all techniques. The instrument’s great response and volume at a softer touch make it incredibly fun to play fingerstyle, yet it has no problem responding to a more robust attack, and its dynamic range ceiling moves right along with the music being played. The guitar’s tone has a three-dimensional complexity, yet it isn’t so full that it would be difficult to amplify onstage. It’s easy to see why Richard himself has replaced his older Lowdens with this signature model, as the guitar is willing to go anywhere and do anything.

SPECS: F-size body. AAAA cedar top. Dolphin-shaped X-bracing. Ziricote back and sides. Five-piece mahogany, rosewood, and walnut neck. Ebony fingerboard. Rosewood bridge with split saddles. 25.59-inch scale. 45-mm. nut width. Gotoh 510 tuning machines. Made in Northern Ireland. $7,550 street.


Category: Instruments & Gear

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