You would do well to find a more beautiful acoustic guitar than Frank Hannon's Love Dove. It's pricey, of course, making the odd imperfection a disappointment, but this bird has the tones and the looks to easily overcome those faults. And it has songs in it for sure.
- Stunningly beautiful with elegant appointments.
- Unbelievably cool pickguard and bridge.
- Bold and pleasant acoustic-electric tone.
- Slight craftsmanship imperfections.
The launch of Gibson’s Acoustic Custom Shop in Bozeman, Montana, was one of the most exciting developments in an otherwise relatively dreary year.
The latest addition to its Artist Collection is also thrilling: It’s a collaboration with Tesla guitarist Frank Hannon commemorating 30 years since “Love Song” became a radio staple and a must-learn song for any rocker with an acoustic heart.
Once upon a time, Gibson chief merchant officer Cesar Gueikian was just that sort of guy. He and his wife chose “Love Song” as their wedding tune, and when Gueikian met Hannon and jammed with him at the NAMM Show, they set their sights on creating a signature model in the style of Hannon’s cherished ’76 Dove.
Hannon went into great detail about his history as a Dove man in GP’s July 2020 Frets feature. Here we’ll take a good look at the instrument itself.
The Love Dove is easily one of the most beautiful acoustics you’ll ever lay eyes on. If you’re after an instrument that will make heads turn and mouths water, look no further. The whole guitar radiates red. The AAA-grade flamed-maple back ripples like a river, and the Vintage Cherry Sunburst finish glistens in the sunshine.
The thick nitrocellulose finish appeared to ripple in a few spots, and I caught a tiny blemish in the otherwise beautiful bright-white-with-black-lined binding, but neither was obvious without intense scrutiny under luminous natural light. The most noticeable elements were the exquisite hand-engraved and hand-painted doves and roses on the decorative pickguard and bridge.
The rosewood pickguard is carved in a bat-wing style, as on Hannon’s original favorite Dove. He understandably had to have that here, as it looks damn cool. The Love calligraphy engraved on the truss-rod cover is a nice touch too. The Love Dove’s round three-piece maple neck is comfortable in hand, especially down near the nut.
It measures 1.72 inches – not 1.75 or 1.69 – which is narrower than some modern dreadnoughts, but not as much as many traditional dreadnoughts. The rosewood fingerboard looks and feels high quality.
I found the action a bit lofty in the upper register and felt the frets could be smoothed out a bit as well. The action was easy enough to adjust with a truss-rod tweak via the included tool, and it improved playability tremendously across the board.
The Dove is particularly adept for strumming chords and picking licks in lower positions. The Dove body style is a square-shoulder dreadnought similar to its cousin, the Hummingbird. It has a back and sides of maple, rather than mahogany, and a longer scale length than the ’Bird.
Its tone sounds sexy in the mids and high mids, and its full 25.5-inch scale contributes to plenty of snappy volume. The tone disperses well from the sound hole, and with nice sustain, considering the inherent dampening that comes from a serious paint job with a generous finish, as well as the giant pickguard.
Playing with a plectrum accentuates the highs, but this particular Dove is not especially bright for a maple model. In fact, it packs a bunch more balmy bass than one might expect. Perhaps that’s due to hand-scalloped X bracing and the warmth of a thermally aged solid Sitka top.
Gibson markets the Love Dove as a “’70s-era Dove built for performance,” and the sound from its L.R. Baggs VTC pickup and preamp backs that up. Its plug-and-play acoustic-electric tone is pure and straightforward, and the sound from string to string is even and true, with zero compression even when played with a strong attack.
Hannon says he plugs it straight into the P.A. with no processing, and I believe him. He played the Love Dove prototype on Tesla’s latest album, Five Man London Jam, and the sound is comparable to what I heard from this review unit through an AER Compact 60/3 TE (only my playing wasn’t quite as fluent!).
Gibson’s Acoustic Custom Shop is clearly finding its stride. Craftsmanship continues to improve with each new offering. Little issues as simple as a stray trace of rubbing compound or as silly as the certificate of authenticity listing the model here as “Hummingbird Ebony” rather than “Love Dove” can be easily cleaned up and corrected.
It is reasonable to expect perfection to warrant a hefty price tag in any market, especially right now. Overall, the Frank Hannon Love Dove represents a significant step forward. It’s a dynamite-looking and -sounding instrument that will appeal to most, and it will surely be a prized possession for any Tesla or Dove aficionado lucky enough to afford such a luxurious item.
- PRICE: $5,349 street
- NUT WIDTH: 1.72”, bone
- NECK: Three-piece maple, 12” radius
- FRETBOARD: Rosewood, 25.5” scale
- FRETS: 20
- TUNERS: Grover Keystone Rotomatics, nickel
- BODY: Flamed maple back and sides, thermally aged Sitka spruce top
- BRIDGE: Rosewood with bone saddle and Tusq bridge pins
- ELECTRONICS: L.R. Baggs VTC with soundhole-mounted volume and tone controls
- FACTORY STRINGS: Gibson Coated Phosphor Bronze Strings .012—.053
- WEIGHT: 5 lbs
- BUILT: USA
- CONTACT: Gibson (opens in new tab)
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