Review: Boswell Dreadnought D

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Guitars sometimes come to us by word of mouth, and such was the case when Steve Miller’s guitarist, Kenny Lee Lewis, hipped me to an exemplary builder in San Luis Obispo, California, named Butch Boswell. Before opening his shop in 2007, Boswell worked for Taylor Guitars (doing repairs and final setups), as well as for Rudy’s Music in Manhattan, where he says he gained a ton of experience in instrument repair and modification. To this day, Boswell continues to do warranty work for Martin, Taylor, Santa Cruz, Collings, National Resophonic, and others, while building acoustic and electric instruments under his own name.

The Dreadnought D on review here is described by Boswell as, “an experiment in using only the finest materials in my wood supply, and it’s an excellent guitar for both aggressive strumming and delicate fingerstyle.” To wit, the Dreadnought D is built from what are essentially “unobtainium” woods: Old-growth, highly figured Brazilian rosewood (sourced from resawn structural beams) and old-growth Adirondak spruce for the top. From here, Boswell used German spruce for the top and back bracing, and, from the same pieces of Brazilian rosewood, cut the fretboard, bridge, and peghead overlay. Though visually stunning from a pure wood perspective, everything is further enhanced by ebony binding on the top, back, headstock, and rosette; as well as herringbone binding on the figured top. Finished in high-gloss nitrocellulose lacquer (satin lacquer on the neck), the guitar shows impeccable craftsmanship throughout.

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The Dreadnought D’s playing feel is equally superb. The hand-carved, C-shaped neck is very comfortable, the low action and silky frets make it easy to glide around the fretboard, and tuneful intonation helps this guitar to speak with a focused and articulate voice. The sound is beautifully balanced, there’s abundant sustain, and you really get that sense of being enveloped by sound—a quality that always elevates the playing experience. As a good dreadnought should, the D packs a wallop when you lay into it with a flatpick, but it also has great touch-sensitivity and responds in a dynamic and expressive manner when played lightly with the fingers. Boswell’s thoughtful presentation of what a modern dreadnought should be makes for a instrument that can suit the lead player in a bluegrass band, a solo fingerstylist, or the rhythm guitarist in an Americana or folk outfit.

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While this particular model showcases what Boswell can do with ultra-premium materials, the guitars he makes in the standard range are squarely in the target market for the high-end crowd. Boswell may not have the name recognition of some of his contemporaries, but we suspect that will change as more of his guitars find their way into the hands of players and collectors of fine American-made instruments.

Dreadnought D
PRICE $12,500 street (prices start at $6,500)
NUT WIDTH 1.75” NECK Mahogany, dovetail joint
FRETBOARD Old-growth Brazilian rosewood, 24.9” scale, 16” radius
FRETS 20, Gold Evo
TUNERS Waverly, ebony buttons
BODY Solid Brazilian rosewood back and sides, solid Adirondak spruce top
BRIDGE Brazilian rosewood
ELECTRONICS None (available on order)
FACTORY STRINGS Elixir Phosphor Bronze Light/Medium .012-.056
WEIGHT 3.78 lbs.
BUILT USA KUDOS Supreme quality. Plays and sounds amazing. All hide-glue construction.