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Thread: The Red Valley AMW

  1. #1

    Default The Red Valley AMW

    Nova Scotia is the primary home to Celtic music outside the British Isles, and it was in fact one of the charms that drew me here. I felt in love with Celtic music decades ago and have played Irish nylon and wire folk harp (clarsach), fiddle and now mandolin. I even used to operate a little Celtic folk musical instrument store. One of my favorite lines to carry in that store were Dusty Strings harps. They were consistently flawless; beautiful voices and exacting standards of construction that blended both beauty and function. Playing almost exclusively Celtic music on my mandolin, and favoring the Irish tradition, I longed for a deep, large, flat bodied mandolin like those of the auld country, known for their sweet, bright and pure voices. I had been hunting around for quite awhile, and looked at almost every variant mentioned on TMC, but when I realized the mandolin maker at Red Valley was James Wilson, formerly a Dusty Strings luthier who decided to strike off on his own to develop his own line of mandolins, I was sold almost from the start. I've played and sold many Dusty harps and a few of their hammered dulcimers and never met one I didn't love. It was with complete confidence that two months ago I commissioned his largest, deepest bodied model--the Red Valley AMW.

    Working with James was a pleasure. He went into detail with me over just how I wanted my dream mandolin. In the end, I settled on one with a bubinga body, neck and headstock with an ebony face and fret board, Sitka spruce top, black Rubner tuners, and ebony binding. I've found no difference in comfort or playability between the radiused fret boards of modern mandolins vs the flat fret boards of antique mandolins, so I opted for the more traditional flat fret board. I was used to it anyway from my octave mandolin and find that it even seems to work better for me. I did opt for an extra wide nut which makes it feel a little more like my OM, and I just love it! James produced it in about 60 days and it arrived two days ago, and having played it every spare moment since then, I know now it is and will forever be my darling. I think I'll name her Aisling. She has a striking dark and figured body, yet her brightly hued top is as much a contrast as her bright, sweet voice.

    The workmanship is flawless, and the setup out of the box was as good. The neck is probably a little thicker than many modern mandolins. I am not sure but I am used to thick necked mandolins of older styles and this neck seemed to fit naturally right into my hands. I swear, I play better with it, as if it was designed for my body. Maybe I am just in love

    I've never heard a mandolin like this, and that is no exaggeration. If you are familiar with harps, I would compare it to the difference between a nylon harp and a wire harp. (Look them up on YouTube and you will understand.) The Red Valley AMW has sustain that is almost unbelievable for a mandolin. Its voice is considerably more pure than any arched top mandolin I've ever heard. Plucking the strings is more like tickling bells to my ear. It is beautiful. I doubt this would work so much for Blue Grass, but for moody Irish airs and rousing jigs and reels, it is a truly magnificent instrument.

    The AMW is a difficult mandolin to case due to its unusually large body. It is about an inch wider and deeper than a typical mandolin (maybe a little more), putting its body closer to mandola dimensions. James has been struggling to find a case maker who could accommodate it. Yesterday, by sheer chance, I found a case while in a tiny nearby village that works perfectly: the Profile PRC300-MA. The case is extra deep and wide and fits like it was made for the AMW.

    James emailed me to notify me he had over estimated the cost of S&H and was sending me some packages of extra strings to make up for it. Like I said, great guy to work with. I give both James and the AMW mandolin 5 out of 5 stars!

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  2. The Following 3 Users Say Thank You to Cliff Seruntine For This Useful Post:

  3. #2
    Registered User Eric F.'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002

    Default Re: The Red Valley AMW

    Congrats, that's gorgeous. I'd love to hear it. Actually, I'd love to play it!

  4. #3
    Registered User bruce.b's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    NW Portland, Oregon

    Default Re: The Red Valley AMW

    Very nice, Cliff. I recently received my AM, sitka and mahogany back, sides and neck. I was torn between the AM and the AMW. I’d love to play the two side by side. Mine sounds and plays great. I love the build quality and the finish on mine, just a beautiful mandolin. Mine looks almost exactly like Billy Brown’s mandolin, in the first video on the RV site, just slightly different mahogany.

  5. #4

    Default Re: The Red Valley AMW

    congratulations, love to hear it some day

  6. #5
    Registered User PH-Mando's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2014

    Default Re: The Red Valley AMW

    That is a beauty. My AM Red Valley has been a great instrument. I am sure you will enjoy yours and make great music.

  7. #6
    Registered User MissingString's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    North Shore, MA

    Default Re: The Red Valley AMW

    Great post. Congratulations and enjoy for many years. I fully understand the picture in front of the wood burning stove is for aesthetic reasons, but it makes me really really nervous LOL. Thanks for the review!
    “Without music, life would be a mistake” Neitzsche

    Collings MF5-V
    Kimble A5
    An electric rig with an envelope filter trying to sound like Jerry...

  8. #7

    Default Re: The Red Valley AMW

    I realize this is about a year old, but my AMW will be arrive pretty soon. I've never heard a complaint about his instruments, and I have also found James great to work with.

    What strings do you use? (Or, anyone else that plays Irish traditional on the AMW.) I like a warm but clean tone - don't care much about volume.


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