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The banjo reviews database is here to help educate people before they purchase an instrument. Of course, this is not meant to be a substitute for playing the instrument yourself!

6855 reviews in the archive.

Tailpieces: Fults Cumberland T/P

Submitted by robin jones on 12/28/2008

Where Purchased: Online

Overall Comments

It's fantastic. Period. I've never seen anything that was better made.

Overall Rating: 10

The SteelDrivers: The SteelDrivers

Submitted by robin jones on 11/28/2008

Where Purchased: SteelDrivers.net

Overall Comments

Brilliant song writing. Masterful musicianship, both vocally and instrumentally. This album is a testament that bluegrass is alive and well and developing in interesting ways. The SteelDrivers' self-titled debut is an instant classic. I've only just discovered it but it ranks, hands down, as my favorite original bluegrass album ever. (All 11 tunes are original.) It's simply outstanding. I bought mine through the website at the link at the bottom of this review. If you're up for an inspiring treat, I recommend you do the same.

http://www.steeldrivers.net/index.htm

Overall Rating: 10

Jubilee Music

Submitted by robin jones on 11/6/2008

Overall Comments

Had a wonderful "buying" experience dealing with my new friends at Jubilee in Fairhope, Alabama. Fairhope is such a nice, laid back little town and Jubilee is just what you'd expect to find there. Wonderful staff. The owner, Eugene, cut me a killer deal on a new D-18. I don't know if they have any interest whatsoever in the mail order business but you'd do well to call them before you buy a guitar. Joe, the guitar tech, let me play all the Martins and Larrivees. No pressure. Other staffers, Susan and Matt, are as pleasant and helpful as can be. They do it right over there and they have a customer for life in me.

Overall Rating: 10

Don Reno: Don Reno: Founding Father Of The Bluegrass Banjo

Submitted by robin jones on 10/26/2008

Where Purchased: Elderly Online

Overall Comments

My initial review of this work was way off in the low direction. As is often the case with me, I have to listen to something new/fresh for awhile before I get it. That's what happened here. I was so unfamiliar with Reno's style that I didn't appreciate how great he was until I'd listened to the record again and again. It's a good one. He was, without question, a fantastic artist.

Overall Rating: 7

Earl Scruggs: The Essential Earl Scruggs

Submitted by robin jones on 10/26/2008

Where Purchased: Elderly Online

Overall Comments

For my money this is an excellent compilation. It covers decades of Earl's playing, albeit sparsely, and includes excellent liner notes by Earl himself, and a nice tribute from Bela Fleck. If you're trying to cover Earl on the cheap for your music collection you could do a lot worse than this album.

Overall Rating: 8

Deering: Deluxe

Submitted by robin jones on 10/12/2008

Where Purchased: West Moble Music

Year Purchased: 2008
Price Paid: historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

I love the sound of my Deluxe. I was on the brink of buying a Maple Blossom, which was set up a little better and was somewhat louder and brighter sounding, but I opted for the Deluxe for its mellower tone. It is plenty loud and can produce a variety of sounds/tones depending on right hand placement and attack.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

I played/considered three Deering models. The Sierra, Deluxe, and Maple Blossom. The more expensive the instrument, the better it was set up from the factory. I didn't care for the Sierra's tone and it had fret buzzes all over the place. The Deluxe had buzzes in the first five frets but they were "minor" to my way of thinking. The Maple Blossom's action was ultra-low but it still produced the bright/brassy tone so many bluegrass banjoist prefer and was deafeningly loud. Several of the bracket nuts were completely loose on the Deluxe I bought. Additionally, I had to loosen the truss road approximately 1/4 turn over several days to eliminate fret buzzes. I haven't had to do anything since but change the strings occasionally.

Setup Rating: 6

Appearance

I prefer the plain appearance of the Deluxe. The only way it could be better would be if it had no fret markers a la Clarence White's flattop. The banjo is red mahogany and very pretty. Not as pretty as the maple models but not as brassy sounding either. The arm rest began to tarnish almost immediately. I don't remember cheap banjos I've owned in the past doing so so quickly but I probably wasn't oozing all the toxins back then that I am now (at 46).

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

Sounds the same every time I take it out of the case. I can't imagine ever having to do anything to it other than periodically adjusting the neck, changing the head, and having it re-fretted when indicated. It's an extremely well made, heavy duty instrument.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

The first two cases I had were faulty. Deering went the extra mile to get me new ones, as they should have. I got the impression from dealing with Carolina (concerning the cases) at Deering that they are running an absolutely first-class operation. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend a Deering to anyone.

Customer Service: 10

Components

I'm not a banjo mechanic and this question would probably be better answered by someone who was and then after a year or two but from my point of view the parts are all high quality.

UPDATED: Had tailpiece problems I'm deducting a point for. A fine instrument should have a fine tailpiece, at least in my estimation, and the stock Deering model leaves much to be desired.

Components Rating: 7

Overall Comments

I love my banjo. The tone if my favorite feature. I highly recommend Deering. If something happens to it I'llalmost certainly replace it with a Deering and probably another Deluxe. Riding out the depreciation on a new banjo can be tough to impossible but sense I have no intention of ever selling it it's not an issue. Buying new I had a good idea of exactly what I was getting for my money versus a supposedly high quality instrument some joker had put an Alvarez tone ring on before putting it up on eBay.

Overall Rating: 9

Alan Munde: Banjo Sandwich

Submitted by robin jones on 8/25/2008

Where Purchased: Elderly web site

Overall Comments

A savory treat from beginning to end. Alan's playing is spectacular, as is the sound of the Stelling he plays. I don't know if it's Munde's masterpiece but it's a masterpiece. It's as fresh today as when I first heard it some 30 years ago. If you want to learn some cool tunes and killer chops get the album, get the tab, and go to work.

Overall Rating: 10

Other: Gold Tone Banjo Mute

Submitted by robin jones on 8/25/2008

Where Purchased: Elderly web site

Overall Comments

I reside with people who sleep so I have to mute the Deluxe between 10 and 2. This little mute works quite well. Much better than one that sits on top of the bridge. It's a tad tricky to use. I scratched my head nicely when I first put it on. It doesn't have to go all the way on to do its thing. Not sure how it'll wear but new it does what it's supposed to and relatively painlessly.

Overall Rating: 7

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