Michael Rowan operates a one-man custom gui-
tar shop in Garland, Texas, and he recently submitted for review one of the most appealing guitars we’ve grabbed, groped, and fondled in quite some time.
The Rowan Custom Guitars “Cimarron” is a hybrid double-cutaway acoustic/electric “stage” guitar. The small (about 7″ x 16″) super-light, one-piece mahogany body is hollowed out and capped with a 5-A flamed maple top. The bookmatched “Cinnamon burst” top is finished with a flawless high-gloss polyurethane finish and had incredible depth and color. And as if that was gorgeous enough, the guitar’s body is framed in walnut purfling with abalone inlay.
The top of the Cimarron is flat until it hits the purfling, where it contours smoothly into the body. The one-piece set mahogany neck is capped with a 10″ radius Ebony fretboard and equipped with 24 medium jumbo frets that are nicely polished and leveled. There are no markers on the face of the fretboard – just an inlaid abalone “R” on the 12th fret space.
The three-on-a-side peghead receives the same treatment; flame maple with walnut purfling and abalone inlays along with a nicely finished bone nut. A tall bone saddle is set into a top-loading Ebony bridge with a small ledge that hides the ball ends of the strings. On either side of the bridge, the Ebony knobs for the volume (treble side) and tone (bass side) are discretely incorporated into the bridge design. Hardware is minimal, locking Gotoh tuners and strap button are all chrome.
Electronics are also minimal; volume, passive tone, end-pin jack, and a Fishman preamp. The 9-volt preamp battery is accessed through a cover on the back. Remove it, and you can see how the bridge is firmly pinned to the top and how the X braces are neatly applied.
The first thing you notice when you pick up the Cimarron is how light it is (31/2 pounds) and how nicely its body is contoured. The 25.5″ scale length and Elixer strings give it a fantastically smooth feel with just enough string tension to avoid feeling mushy. With a small adjustment to the double-action truss rod, we were able to get the action good and low, and it stayed buzz-free.
The medium C-shaped neck felt “Goldilocks good” – not too big, not too small.
Of course the Cimarron was made to be plugged in, so we tried it in a variety of acoustic amps, including a Genz-Benz, a Peavey, and a Laney. We found the tone to be unique – not like a dreadnought or an electric with a piezo bridge. Instead, it proffered a natural, woody tone with a throaty quality. The Fishman’s pre-shaped EQ is very well-voiced, giving a punchy, thumpy, low-end and clean highs. The volume control is nicely tapered and placed well for doing volume swells. The tone control doesn’t work unless the volume is turned down a little first, but that makes it easy to use as a solo boost. And because there is no soundhole, the Rowan can be played loudly without fear of feedback or howl.
We can only imagine how good it would sound through a big sound system or in a recording studio.
We can’t say enough about the sheer aesthetic beauty of this guitar, or the outstanding craftsmanship that went into building it. It’s unique, natural, woody tone and excellent playability are just the icing on the cake.
Type of Guitar Semi-hollow acoustic/electric.
Features Top-notch craftsman ship,, 5-A flamed maple top, abalone inlay, ebony appoint-ments, light weight, Fishman pickup system, custom fit case
Contact Rowen Custom Guitars, 809 Meadowgate Drive, Garland, TX 75040, www. rowanguitars. com.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Jan. ’03 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.