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The best guitar makers in the world can walk down the street unnoticed. In some cases, they are unknown even to the faithful who play their instruments. Heck, the word “luthier” isn’t even in most dictionaries. This is fitting, actually. Most luthiers are happy to fly under the radar and quietly work on their craft. Avoiding the spotlight seems to be part of the job description. You might have a different opinion, however, after taking a stroll across the Montreal Guitar Show floor.
The MGS is like an all-star game for luthiers. More than 130 of the best guitar makers in the world were at the fourth iteration of the event showing off their stuff, sharing their design philosophies, and soaking up a high level of appreciation from A-list artists, fellow gear makers, and fans of stringed instruments. Some of the luthiers’ reputations preceded them. Some were relative newcomers whose innovative work got them an invitation to exhibit.
For attendees in the market for a handcrafted instrument as well as those just curious to see and hear some cool stuff, the MGS was the proverbial candy store for wide-eyed, eager kids. More than 60 mini concerts took place, pairing notable musicians with guitars right off the show floor. There were workshops. There were lectures. Oh, and the world-famous Montreal Jazz Festival was going on right outside the door.
It’s impossible to crystallize the event in a few magazine pages, but here’s a taste of what we encountered this year.
The Papaléocada by Jean-Yves Alquier (alquier-guitar.com) is a lap steel made of a stainless steel exoskeleton and 115 pieces of grain-matched curly maple. The matching KT66-driven amp was made by Christophe Jégou (guitares.jegou.free.fr/web).
LEFT: Michael McCarthy specializes in acoustic archtops that he builds using a CNC machine to carve self-bracing tops. mccarthystringedinstruments.com
RIGHT: Prairiewood Guitars’ Midwesterner (left) features a butternut body, while the Hardtop (right) has an Eastern maple body. prairiewoodguitars.com