Gallagher Bluegrass Bell

Ready, Set, Ring
Gallagher Bluegrass Bell
Price: $4,900

Pickers sure love to talk about their guitars, and more than a few will enthusiastically tell you about their favorite acoustic’s “bell-like” tone, describing its chime and the way it rings. Perhaps this is where Gallagher Guitar drew inspiration for its Bluegrass Bell, a proper dreadnought that shares many specs with the bluegrass cannons of the Golden Era.

Based in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Gallagher has been building custom guitars since the mid 1960s and had a longtime relationship with Doc Watson, so it’s no surprise the company is producing bona fide bluegrass and folk boxes that pay homage to great American guitars. The Bluegrass Bell is their take on spruce-topped dreadnoughts of the late ’30s.

Our test model had East Indian rosewood back and sides, but the Bell is also available with mahogany and Madagascar rosewood. The top is torrefied, simulating age and making it less susceptible to changes in temperature and humidity. Beneath the hood is torrefied Adirondack bracing in a forward-shifted X pattern. The result is an augmented bass response to go along with the sparkle in the upper register of this square-shouldered cannon. Put through its flat-picking paces, the Bell is strong and assertive. Though it’s a modestly loud box, the true volume and tone of this full-bodied guitar is sure to mature with time and play. Nothing is lost beneath the substantial bass response; the mids are very much present and the highs… well, they ring.

Other nods to the past include the positively wonderful V-shaped neck. Moderately deep and rounded fairly well, it’ll feel like a dream for anyone looking for a V shape, but is also quite accessible to players looking for a modern U neck. Herringbone trim and rosette are a classy nod to the Golden Era, and the tester came with a handsome shade top. Open-back tuners put the finishing touch on the aesthetics package.

The Bell was light and lively right out of the case, tipping the scales just past 4.5 pounds. Action on the 25.25″-scale fretboard was medium and comfortable, playing fast enough to keep up, but still high enough to really dig in with the picking hand and make some noise. At 13/4″, nut width is right out of the vintage playbook. The forward-shifted X-bracing absolutely reveals itself in the form of loud and warm low-end. This is the embodiment of the classic cannon.

This article originally appeared in VG’s August 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

No posts to display