Guitar Review

Michael Lewis' Wingfeather Archtop-reviewed by JimiBeeler & NormanL. Beberman

Top: Redwood

Back & Sides: Walnut

Details: Ebony fingerboard. Hardwood adjustablebridge & tailpiece.

Archtop guitar builders carry on traditions established bymaster violin makers because they share the same objectives ofmaking an instrument whose sound will project over distances &over bigger, louder instruments. There is a reason that archtopbuilders use "f-holes" or variations of "f-holes".The reasoning behind "f-holes" is best described incomparison with the traditional round steel-string soundhole &the interaction of the strings with the soundhole & the airinside the soundhole.

Playing a note on a steel-string guitar makes the string vibrate,which "disturbs" the air in the soundhole. This createsthe sound. The sound leaves the guitar through the soundhole,which is a far larger opening than the surface-area of an "f-hole".The result is analogous to water leaving a hose - a relativelylarge amount of sound leaving the hole. The distance that thesound travels or carries determines the projection of the guitar.

Playing a note on an archtop is much the same until the pointat which the sound leaves the guitar. The sound leaves as waterwould coming through a hose with one of those "pistol-grip"devices that focuses the water in a narrow, forceful stream. Thenarrow "-f-holes" serve to concentrate the air flowleaving the instrument. This is what gives archtops superior projectionthat lets them be heard in big band-type settings.

Michael Lewis understands the relationships between the archesof top, the back & sides, bracings, & "f-hole"functions & builds some very special archtops. "Wingfeather"is one of Michael's original designs that excels on every level.It is our opinion that Michael's guitars represent a quantum leapforward in the design, construction & use of archtops in thathis guitars are beginning to be used by finger-style players inaddition to jazz players.

"Wingfeather" is a particularly soulful & spiritualarchtop embodying many Native American influences. These may beseen in the arrow-shaped headstock & the shapes of the pickguard& tailpiece.

The redwood top's grain is exquisite & is beautifully shownoff with a high-gloss finish. "Wingfeather's" redwoodtop gives a sharp, bright projecting tone. Michael uses his experiencein his recurve & arching to create the desired tones. "Wingfeather"has a very focused tone that cuts when necessary, as in pick-stylechord melodies. The focused tone is particularly apparent in themids & highs, with no loss in bass. The arched walnut backcontributes a very nice degree of warmth to "Wingfeather's"overall tone.

Play sensitive rhythms or roar- the choice is yours with thisguitar. Wonderful archtop in every respect. If you like archtops& want something genuinely unique, soulful looks & soundyou will LOVE this one!

Builder: Michael Lewis, Grass Valley, CA . Tel. 530.272.4124E-mail: malewis@nccn.net