As 2019 began, I was searching for the right company to make me an acoustic guitar of the highest quality, one that I would likely play for the rest of my life. I had tried a carbon fiber guitar 10-12 years previously (not an Emerald), and I was very disappointed in the sound – harsh and tinny. I started looking exclusively at wood instruments, but it didn’t take long to realize that the technology & quality of carbon fiber guitars had greatly increased since I had last played one. Emerald kept coming up at the top of my web searches, so eventually I just had to see what their buzz was all about.
I soaked up every Emerald owner’s YouTube video I could find. I read THOUSANDS of web reviews. I watched and RE-watched Alex Ryan’s outstanding X30 review on YouTube at least 8 or 10 times through. I bought Chris Dignam’s “Amaris” album (recorded exclusively on Emerald instruments.) I was very impressed to see how highly Emerald’s customers spoke of them. When I learned that Alistair & Company were building guitars for some great players that I look up to, it really reinforced for me that Emerald Guitars lives by a very high quality standard.
In early March 2019, life took a different turn… somewhat unexpectedly, my mother Ruth passed away. While speaking at her memorial service, I made an off-handed comment to those gathered about somehow honoring my mother’s musical legacy, but I wasn’t sure exactly what that would look like yet. She was a dulcimer & harp player, well known in the folk music circles up and down the United States’ east coast. Mom was also the earliest musical influence in my life. Sometime in the week or so after her service, it clicked in my brain to merge my yet-to-be-built acoustic guitar with my mother’s memory. The groundwork for “Ruthie” (mom’s childhood nickname) was laid.
I contacted Emerald, and got a cheerful welcome from Kevin. He worked up pricing on the X30 I had chosen, and within hours of putting down my deposit, Kevin sent me several pictures of Cocobolo veneers to choose from. I soon decided on the one that would eventually become “Ruthie”. At first I was planning to buy an X30 and a 12 string at the same time. But Tiffani (my wife) wisely suggested that since I was buying without ever having touched one, that I get the X30 first and decide if I really loved it. Then, if so, buy the 12 string afterward. That was excellent advice!
Over the months of waiting, Kevin graciously answered my many questions. When the paint artist had to take medical leave, Alistair chatted with me on Facebook to keep me up to date on my requested artwork. Within a couple of weeks, the custom brushwork was done, and my guitar was ready to ship. I will never forget my excitement as I watched the shipping video on September 24, 2019 – when “Ruthie” was revealed for the first time. The shipping videos are really a nice touch, and sometimes you may see things on another guitar that perhaps you hadn’t thought of when you placed your order. So watch them with a notepad handy to remember what really appealed to you!
My X30 showed up on the doorstep in about 8 days. It was well packed, making the journey in great shape. Opening the case for the first time, my first thought was “video does not truly convey the real elegance of these instruments!” My X30 was beautifully polished to a mirror shine, like a fine piece of quality furniture. Lifting it out of the case, I was struck by two things… first, in spite of the large size of the X30 jumbo, it was surprisingly light. And next, how very SOLID this guitar felt in my hands. Some guitars actually feel “fragile” in the hands. Not so with an Emerald… that carbon fiber is tough stuff! But taking that first strum across the strings was pure awesomeness! Such DEEP and rich tone!
I loved it so much that I did end up buying the X20-12 string in 2020. Tiffani and I were able to do a video call with Alistair to discuss how we would dress this one. (She wanted to help and I definitely respect her sense of what looks good together!) We topped it with a Harborica veneer, and gold vines with red roses inlayed in the neck. As you can see from the photos, the team did a beautiful job with it. Whenever I bring it out, it always gets compliments! At Tiffani’s prompting, I also decided to order up a simple X10 (level 1) so I had a smaller guitar for travel purposes. The slim neck feels like my Jackson soloist – nice!
I thought I was done with the three I had. But in 2021 Alistair dropped the adjustable carbon bridge on the world, and I knew I had to get one more… an X20 in vibrant gold weave with spalted chen chen, and of course the adjustable bridge. When I eventually opened the case on delivery day, I was floored by this sparkling, gorgeous instrument. Just incredible.
I play music in my own church, and in a few others, on a weekly basis. I love the fact that I can swap out these guitars from one week to the next, and each one sounds great through my simple pedal board and the various sound systems.
Each of my Emeralds gets at least a few minutes’ play time daily, but my first Emerald guitar – “Ruthie” – will always have a very special place in my heart. The Emerald team took an idea I had in my head and turned it into a beautiful work-of-art. This is a world-class instrument with which I can make my own music, and honor my mom at the same time. Every time I pick up and play “Ruthie”, I will think fondly of my mother.
If you’re window shopping for a beautiful, and well-crafted guitar, and you’re still not sure about Emerald Guitars, let this be a reassurance to you… I know how hard it is to spend your hard-earned money on something you didn’t get to touch firsthand. I bought one… and loved it so much I bought 3 more. You will NOT be disappointed with an Emerald!
Check out Jason performing on his X30 ‘Ruthie’ here.
For more stories like Jason’s check out the Community section in our website. www.emeraldguitars.com/community