Martin CSN (Gerry Tolman) Guitar 
                               - reviewed by Todd Stuart Phillips    

The new CSN model is a superb tribute to the late manager of the group of guitarists who, more than anyone helped popularize Martin guitars beyond the realms of country and traditional folk music. This limited edition Martin is a mixture of a classic, vintage D-28 and that other model CSN (and Y) are most known for, the top-of-the-line D-45. It has the bold herringbone trim found on the D-28 and the nickel-plated, butterbean tuners as well, along with what is being called an "Old Martin" color to the spruce top. It also has the grained ivoroid-bound fingerboard and headstock, colored back strip and pearl rosette of a vintage D-45. It is an interesting combination of aesthetics that frame the most unique customizations very nicely.

The headstock is jet black ebony with the Old Style Martin logo in mother of pearl directly over an abalone version of the CSN logo first used when the trio reunited during the mid-1970s - and incidentally was designed by the late Phil Hartman of Saturday Night Live fame. The fingerboard features smaller versions of the custom inlays that appeared on the separate signature models honoring David Crosby (a white schooner profile), Stephen Stills (the stars of the Southern Cross) and Graham Nash (a red heart with white wings). At the 15th fret is a broken arrow signifying Neil Young's participation in the project. This is the first time that Mr. Young has allowed his name or symbols to be associated with a commercial endorsement of any kind and it gives some indication of his regard for the late Mr. Tolman.

One particularly special feature is the bridge, which has appeared on very few Martin guitars. It is a rectangular "pyramid" bridge, so named because each side has a carved pyramid, but also features the addition of a curved edge on the bottom side that tapers to a decorative point at the center. I think it looks fantastic; even more so when filled by matching ebony bridge pins with large, abalone dots.

As for the guitar as a musical instrument, it has the same Indian rosewood, Engelmann spruce top and forward-shifted, scalloped braces of the new Doobie-42. So I was surprised when the two guitars sounded so different. The Doobie-42 had the resonant shimmer of a D-42 or D-45. The CSN model has the woody and less flashy reverberation of a classic, Vintage Style 28 guitar. This would back up the belief that the material used for the trim of a top does in fact influence its voice.

Put simply, the CSN limited edition sounds like a really good HD-28 with an Engelmann spruce top. The Engelmann adds a rounded quality to the lower registers but the authority of that smoky Indian rosewood retains all its warm and woody power. Others present at the playing of these guitars thought the top was Sitka spruce, but I could hear the smooth and lovely edge (or lack of edge) that one hears in Engelmann and Alpine spruce. It sounded less creamy than Alpine or what I often hear in Engelmann. It reminded me of the German spruce that was the preferred flavor in the 1970s. It gave every indication that it should open up to have that special complexity that only Engelmann adds to a rosewood guitar. It also has a low profile 1-3/4" neck, which I find very comfortable and should be the Martin standard; in my opinion.

TSP, NYC
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