“I’ve got a wonderful builder
named Brock Johnston, who is crafting
these absolutely superior acoustic guitars
for me,” stated Ronnie Montrose when GP
interviewed him a few issues back. And,
as often happens in the wacky world of
music-gear journalism, a Brock Dreadnought
recently showed up at the office.
Inspired by Bozo Podunavac’s designs
for Leo Kottke, Johnston learned how to
build guitars in 1981, producing models
for friends and family. He turned pro in
2000, setting up shop near Sacramento,
California, until moving to San Jose,
California four years ago.
“I learned the old-world style of handcrafting
guitars from Bozo, though I use
more machines than he does,” says Johnston.
“I also based my X-pattern bracing
on Bozo’s, but I tweaked it by mixing parabolic
and scalloped bracing to get what
I wanted—which is a guitar with incredible
volume that still delivers a balanced
frequency range. Coming from bluegrass,
I always hated that you couldn’t hear the
guitar jump out of the instrumental mix,
so my goal was to build guitars with really
Johnston currently produces four
Brock models: an SB (small-bodied fingerpicking
guitar), an OM (orchestra),
an SJ (small jumbo), and the D (dreadnought)
tested here. All models have a
base price of $2,850, and a case is included
in the deal.
This will be a short assessment, because
the Dreadnought’s construction is flawless
and enchanting. From the stunning
curly maple binding, to the pristine bracing
and innards (no rough edges or slop
anywhere), to the frets, hardware, and
headstock, everything screams quality.
Place this guitar on the seat of a Bentley
or Rolls Royce, and there will be no
hint of irony—it’s a superb example of
the luthier’s art.
Because the Dreadnought produces high
amplitude—as well as piano-like girth and
resonance—I decided it would be the perfect
choice for playing single-note rhythmic
lines on a cover of “Beat on the Brat”
for a Ramones acoustic tribute, Sheena Is a
Folk Rocker? [Acoustic Fury Records]. The
idea was to do classic Ramones downstrokes
for the intro chords, but then
to abandon barre chords completely, as
I wanted to air out the sonic spectrum
and pay homage to the crunchy melody
riffs heard on Alice Cooper tracks such
as “Muscle of Love.” An easy maneuver
if you can dig in with ballsy overdrive—
a little trickier if you’re wielding
an organic, miked acoustic.
Happily, the Brock produced a tough
and stout midrange that clearly articulated
the lines. The tone was also feisty
enough to go toe-to-toe with some
absolutely pounding drums and bass
without losing clarity or sonic impact. I
doubled the lines for a stereo effect, and
that was that—the Brock drove the track
like a jet-propelled tractor.
As equally impressible as the Brock’s
machismo is its dynamic voice. For obvious
reasons, I really thrashed the strings
to “punk up” the Ramones track, but
the Brock also produces gorgeous fingerpicked
timbres. You can lay way back
and still get marvelous note clarity, or
dig in for some snap and shimmer. Folky
chords blossom nicely whether you play
with fingers or a pick, and more aggressive,
Townshend-like strumming rings
out clearly with no evidence of low-end
mud or compression. The Brock can
negotiate just about any playing style
and deliver clean, coherent, and expressive
While the Brock Dreadnought is certainly
not a budget- or mid-priced wonder, it’s
absolutely a guitar to aspire to whenever
your gear-acquisition budget expands to
handle a $2,850 acoustic. Workmanship
and tones are superior by any definition,
and its beautifully aggressive volume level
ensures your performance will be heard
above almost all sonic impediments. This
box is truly a dream machine.
Contact Brock Acoustics, brockacoustics.com
Price $2,850 retail
Nut Width 1.75"
Scale Length 25.4"
Neck Honduran mahogany
Frets 20 medium
Body Sitka Spruce top,
East Indian rosewood
back and sides
Factory Strings D’Addario EJ16,
Weight 4.86 lbs
Kudos Spectacular build quality.
and articulate tones.
Concerns Can be a budget buster.
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