A vintage-style small-body with great tone and an affordable price.
by Teja Gerken
December 23, 2019
Luthier Paul Beard is a superstar among contemporary makers of dobro-style resophonic guitars. With more than 30 years of experience behind him, his instruments are played by virtuosos such as Jerry Douglas, Josh Swift, Peghead Nation dobro instructor Mike Witcher, and many others. Based in Maryland, Beard Guitars is now a fully equipped small-shop production environment with a team of luthiers, and recently, the company expanded its vintage-inspired Deco Phonic line to include three non-resonator flattops. In this video, I demonstrate the Sidecar model, which is loosely styled after the classic L-00 design (check back for a Peghead Nation demo of the mini-jumbo Southside model soon).
Beard calls the Sidecar’s body its “R” shape, and even though its width of 14¼ inches at the lower bout is slightly narrower than a typical vintage L-00, the guitar definitely has the L-00’s overarching vibe, harking back to simple guitars of the 1930s and ’40s. The guitar is built with a solid Engelmann spruce top and laminated Finnish birch back and sides. The instrument is protected by a thin, open-pore satin finish, with a sunburst top. On the inside, the top is supported by a lightly constructed X-bracing pattern with a single tone bar in the lower bout. Interestingly, Beard chose mahogany for the braces, rather than the more common spruce. Even though the guitar’s construction is streamlined, featuring basic appointments, simple ivoroid body binding, and an unbound fingerboard, its fit and finish and craftsmanship are very clean and well-executed throughout.
The Sidecar is also notable for its light weight. As is often the case with lightly constructed instruments, the guitar was highly resonant, making it a very responsive playing partner. The Sidecar had the midrange growl most L-00-inspired guitars are known for, but it covered a wider tonal range than is often expected of this size instrument. The guitar had a great presence when playing fingerstyle, and its clarity helped it achieve great sounds when strumming or playing single-note lines with a pick. Naturally, the Sidecar is at home playing the blues, but with its tonal flexibility, it also works very well for other styles.
Overall, the Sidecar is a cool guitar, and Beard should be commended for venturing out of its resonator comfort zone. Whether you’re specifically looking for a guitar in this style or are simply looking for a great-sounding small-body flattop, this is a guitar to consider!
SPECS: Beard R-Model body. Solid Engelmann spruce top with mahogany X-bracing. Laminated Finnish birch back and sides. Mahogany neck. 25-inch scale. 1¾-inch nut width. Open-gear Golden Age Restoration tuners. $1,800. beardguitars.com
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