I’ve been what I call a decent guitar player for almost twenty years. Even after several years in school for jazz guitar, I was only decent, not terrific. However, that never stopped me from loving and playing the best guitars. I am partly a gear-head but also convinced a great guitar can elevate, or the very least, inspire one’s abilities and willpower to want to practice and be better. Up until a fateful late-night Google search of Luthiers close to my home of New York City, I thought I had been playing the best, or at least the barometer of which all other guitars are judged: the Martin HD-28. I’ve had this beauty for almost 15 years. It was one of six at the store at which I bought it, and it sounded the best of the lot. I’ve accumulated other great guitars including a custom Tom Anderson Hollow Body Telecaster, a Gibson Montana Custom shop J-60, and a Taylor 914ce. As far as Luthiers, I had heard of the famous shops whose prices are in the upper 4 to 5 digits. I’ve played most of them at demos or in stores. The idea of owning a custom acoustic was always intriguing, but financially out of reach. However, on that fateful night of Google searching, I found what would elevate my perception of high quality instruments. That search led me to Bill Russo, and I am incredibly thankful for finding him.

First and foremost, Bill is a stand-up guy who I found myself calling unnecessarily and frequently with hardly any reason, but I enjoy talking guitars, woods, and all things in-between, and Bill took the receiving end of those discussions. Maybe I would come up with some minor excuse like discussing a different binding option, which would lead to a fascinating conversation about wood types and ultimately some great pieces of Koa binding for my guitar. Perhaps even more importantly, a friendship and level of trust came into play where I knew I was in good hands. There were several times when Bill would call me and ask what I wanted with this or that, and my reply was simply, whatever you think will look or sound best. And that is a safe answer with Bill.

As a business-person, Bill’s only flaw is his honesty and inability to totally rip you off a-la the well-known custom shops. As a customer, aside from the finished product, this is his greatest selling point. I came away with a guitar that was so far above my expectations but yet so far within a reasonable budget. Had I known Bill when I bought my Martin or Taylor or Gibson, I wouldn’t have. And I’d certainly have some dollars to spare. My guitar pictures are under the photos tab as the DMB-000 model with the most stunning Zircote back and sides, sweet sounding Adirondack top and expertly-laid abalone rosettes and inlays. Whatever Bill does with the bracing–it really sings. This was my first 24.9 scale guitar and despite the 000 size, it sounds like a canon. I’m a short scale for life guy now. The most unexpected result of Bill’s methods is that it is hands-down the most balanced guitar I’ve ever heard. As far as playability, it’s like the neck and fret board were mixed with some hefty percentage of butter.

I’ve not touched the above-mentioned guitars since I received Stella (that’s what I named her!) In fact, I’ve since sold several of the above-mentioned guitars. No need to “play-down”. She sleeps next to the humidifier in case she gets cold and dry. We’ve already started discussing the next one we will build (I say “we” in the same capacity in which men say “we are pregnant” while the wife rolls her eyes). I’ve a hunch I’m going to have more of Bill’s guitars than I’ve room to store them in a short period of time. I need at least one of each possible model. Then we’ll do everything again, but in cutaways.

Thanks, Bill, for what I believe to be the most beautiful and best sounding guitar on the planet today. That is, until our next one is done.

~ Harrison Hughes, New York

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