Guitar Aficionado

Thirties Rock: Huss and Dalton DS-12 Crossroads Guitar

In 1995, Jeff Huss and Mark Dalton, two bluegrass and traditional music aficionados who had logged time at Stelling Banjo Works, began building premium acoustic guitars out of Huss’s garage near Staunton, Virginia.
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By Richard Bienstock | Photo by Massimo Gammacurta

In 1995, Jeff Huss and Mark Dalton, two bluegrass and traditional music aficionados who had logged time at Stelling Banjo Works, began building premium acoustic guitars out of Huss’s garage near Staunton, Virginia.

Today, the Huss and Dalton Guitar Company is a bit bigger, but not much—it currently boasts eight employees and still operates out of Staunton. While the company has demonstrated some outside-the-box thinking—some models feature bolt-on necks for better serviceability and wood-to-wood contact, as well as tops with a built-in 25-inch radius for boosted midrange—it is best known for crafting superior, high-end instruments that often hark back to classic acoustic guitar designs.

To that end, Huss and Dalton has seen much recent success with the Crossroads, the company’s take on Gibson’s famed Thirties-era blues box, the L-00. Like its source, the Crossroads is a small and simply appointed instrument that, due to its size and light weight, boasts a bright and incredibly lively tone. “The idea was to capture that affordable, working-man’s, classically but not ornately appointed instrument,” Jeff Huss says. “We didn’t know what it was going to do, but we built the Crossroads and put it out there, and it went like hotcakes.”

Now, Huss and Dalton has introduced a new version of the guitar, the DS-12 Crossroads, which adds two more classic acoustic designs into the mix: a slope-shouldered, larger dreadnought body style like those found on models in Huss and Dalton’s DS line (and which, Huss says, is “an homage to an old Gibson J-45 or -35”), and a neck that joins the body at the 12th fret (paying respect to, Huss says, “the Roy Smeck-style 12-fret Gibsons”).

While a DS version of the Crossroads had existed previously, this new model represents the first 12-fret iteration of the guitar. “We decided to do it because most Gibson L-0, L-00, L-1, and L-2 flattops were 12-fret models early on,” Huss explains. The change in where the neck meets the body results in the guitar’s bridge being moved “down into the wider part of the bout,” he continues. “So the instrument has that open, dry sound that old Gibsons have, which is what we wanted to capture.”

The DS-12 Crossroads features AAA-grade mahogany back and sides (Indian rosewood optional) and a Sitka spruce top, with a beautiful Vintage Sunburst finish. The top is supported by a scalloped X-style bracing crafted from Appalachian red spruce, a Huss and Dalton standard. “It’s a really stiff wood when it’s quarter sawn, but it’s extremely light,” Huss says. “You can thin it down and still maintain the stiffness that you need.” Indeed, the bracing in the DS-12 is thinned to help achieve that classic L-style responsiveness. “Those Gibsons were extremely lightly braced guitars,” Huss says. “Because of that, very few early L-0 and L-00 guitars have survived. We’re not as light as those, but we’re still pretty light.”

Other features on the DS-12 include a 1 3/4–inch vintage taper mahogany neck with matte finish, Indian rosewood fingerboard and bridge, bone nut, Gotoh TK-0700 tuning machines, and Honduran rosewood bridge plate. Several appointments also lend the guitar an appropriately classic L-00 look: simple pearl dot inlays, crème plastic binding, a black/white/black rosette, a “Crossroads” headstock (which resembles an old Gibson peg head), and an eye-catching fire-stripe pickguard.

The result is a visually arresting package and one that, through the incorporation of the 12-fret design and lightly braced DS-size body, offers remarkably crisp and responsive tone. “It’s very different from the Martin-style guitars that we build, which have that big, whomping bass,” Huss says of the DS-12 Crossroads. “There’s great articulation all across the spectrum.”

According to Huss, the Crossroads line has of late become a best seller for the company. As a result, Huss and Dalton is continuing to expand upon what has been a very successful design. “Next up, we’re going to be building a 12-fret version of the standard Crossroads, just because of the amazing response we’ve had to these instruments,” he says. “So we’ll keep experimenting. We’ve thought for a long time that the L-00 style guitars were really cool. Now it seems like people are starting to agree with us about just how cool they are.”

Huss & Dalton Guitar Co.,