Riversong Guitars Tradition One Performer
Price: $3,299 (list)
Occasionally, a luthier’s innovation defines a new acoustic guitar sound. The Riversong Tradition One Performer blends modern build techniques, visionary design, and Canadian timbers to achieve a sonic profile as unique as Django’s Maccaferri or Bukka White’s National.
On the surface, the Tradition One Performer is a lightly finished dreadnought with pale wild cherry back and sides and a straight-grained Engelmann spruce top. Characteristic of the Riversong line are a generous Florentine cutaway, mustachioed bridge, and a bold maple/rosewood rosette augmented by a strip of inlaid cherry along the edge of the top – protective and functional. Curly maple trims the sideport, neck joint, and the tailblock, contributing to the distinctive aesthetic.
The Riversong neck is a rigid construction, from modernistic headstock through the body to the adjustment mechanism at the tailblock. The neck-through design provides a sturdy platform for a thick rosewood fingerboard and frees the upper bout from the heavy bracing normally required to support neck tension. The top is not attached to the neck, greatly reducing the stresses inherent in a traditional design. Based on an X brace, the bracing is very light, enhancing guitar responsiveness. Build quality is solid, with features like rounded top and back edges, the aforementioned side soundport, and a neck inspired by modern-day solidbodies – a fast-playing D profile, 1.625″ nut, 16″ radius, 25.5″ scale, and 24 frets.
In the lap, the Riversong sounded huge for first-position chords and single-note runs. A 45-second subtle neck-angle adjustment, simple enough with the Riversong design, bumped up the action to sound fat and clean all the way up the neck. Intonation stayed solid. While not a focused bluegrass cannon, this dread nonetheless put out some serious volume with a long, shimmery decay and richly textured wound-string single notes. Bare fingers produced harp-like arpeggios when fingered with open strings.
Amplified through a small club PA, the neck-through design and light bracing combined with the B-Band electronics to produce an even, sustained response. The pickups sensed vibrations from two locations, with a Mix knob for balance. EQ was simple, feedback resistance high, and the Riversong’s unique voice led us into some unexpected solo improvisations. The Tradition One Performer put some new ideas into an old jaded set of fingers.
Riversong has several models based on a dreadnought shape, though we couldn’t help but wonder how their designs might work on a 12-string or parlor guitar… or how about a petite bouche Gypsy jazzbox . . . or maybe an all-koa jumbo… or…
This article originally appeared in VG August 2015 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.