WARNING: This May Get Geeky
It’s hard to express the degree of stokedness we topped when MacKenzie & Marr Guitars of Montreal asked us to help out with the launch PR campaign for their latest creation, the Ron Hynes Songwriter model.
With a heart full of music and a head full of inane trivia about guitars, builds, builders and players it immediately struck me as one of those rare opportunities in life to combine two great loves in one project. PR is fun, but it’s even more fun when you are a fan. And this wasn’t just any player or any guitar, but one painstakingly specced for the great Atlantic…nay, legendary Canadian songsmith Ron Hynes.
As we said in the news release, “Even if you haven’t heard the name Ron Hynes, chances are you have heard his songs”, and at very least, the lightly driving classic Sonny’s Dream. But this all comes with a big caveat that is part of the theme of this post.
The Lesson? Don’t Geek Out! (even though that’s just what I am about to do)
In my first draft of the press release, the text was all a glow with the finer points of guitar making, classic 1930’s dreadnought specs, forward shifted X-bracing, quarter sawn tops and tone, tone, tone. It was hardly my fault, just a day before I visited the MacKenzie & Marr shop on the canal, I had sauntered over the Steve’s Music near the office, and plucked a dandy looking Martin D-18 off the wall. I love D-18s, possibly even more than my old 28, and this one was in my opinion the best of the lot at Montreal’s biggest guitar store.
Fast forward to the next day and my first visit to MacKenzie & Marr, and with tunnel focus, walked straight up to what I was to discover to be the Ron Hynes Songwriter model, picked it up, and started to play. Wow! Now that’s a D-18! President, John Marr quickly set me straight saying “there’ll be no mentions of Martins, Gibsons or any of their boutique sons or daughters around here”. The fact was that in spite of sharing many a common feature with the 18, from the mahogany back and sides to the spartan blond top, it was a unique creation with the addition of a Canadian Red Cedar Top and was as good or better sounding and playing a guitar than many dreadnoughts at 6 times the price. 6 times the price!
A Working Man’s Guitar
And this is where the story gets really interesting. A no nonsense guy, for Hynes’ a key specs was to create what he called, “a working man’s guitar”, a pro performance instrument that would be attainable to young and emerging players and writers alike. No easy feat.
Gibson did it back in the war years with their legendary J-45 which sold for a paltry $45.00 in 1945, and for all practical purposes owned the 60s with Dylan, the Beatles and scores of other famous players going gibson acoustic.
Now back to the press release.
Thus inspired, I sent my first draft over to John Marr, who quickly called me up and called me out saying “I don’t want you to take this the wrong way Brendan, because I know your heart’s in the right place, but you really can’t, how can I put it, ‘geek out’ on the product this way. There’s a handful of people like me who are right there with you on the lovely details, but this is a simple guitar that needs simple treatment, not a Fretboard Journal article. “
Humble Pie (also Gibson players, btw)
So back to the drawing board, and soon with a new version focused much more on why this guitar existed in the first place, and the men behind it; Ron Hynes, Jonathan MacKenzie, John Marr and the so-called “&” in MacKenzie & Marr, Charles MacPhail, Hynes’ long time manager. They had been in discussion for some years before this guitar happened, and likely due to the challenges of nailing it. But nail it they did.
And what better timing as Ron Hynes returns to stage after a year or so out battling throat cancer. Now half way through a Canadian tour that will bring him out to BC and back to the atlantic via Maine, only to kick off another tour of his native Newfoundland in November.
And as the story rolls out this week across Canada we had the pleasure to help put the pieces together for a front page article in the St. John’s Telegram by Josh Pennel. You can read the full story here.
And now, all geeking aside., and straight to business. If you are looking for a killer bluegrass, country, folk, rock or celtic canon, at $550 bucks, I would consider this probably the best value on an acoustic guitar I’ve ever seen and played, and I look a lot.