Think of an acoustic guitar, and you’ll probably be imagining a dreadnought with a spruce top, mahogany or rosewood back and sides – the quintessential all-round strummer. But the Jim Dandy from Gretsch flies in the face of this recipe, instead offering up a retro-inspired, small-bodied parlor guitar.
Thanks to this and the small-ish price tag, the Gretsch Jim Dandy has long been a favourite among those looking for an inexpensive acoustic guitar that still has some personality. But since Gretsch has issued it in the tasty-looking Nocturne Blue finish pictured (alongside a sapele-bodied Frontier Stain version), now is a good time to revisit it.
Build-wise, the limited edition model we have for review is the same as the current regular models. That is, a basswood top, back and sides, accompanied by a C-shaped, nato neck which meets the 95mm-deep body at the 12th fret, and a black walnut fingerboard at a 24-inch scale length. All of this adds up to an acoustic that sits between a three-quarter and full-sized acoustic, making it a great guitar for kids and adults alike.
There’s no getting way from the retro design: open-gear tuners, pin-less, top-loaded bridge, vintage-style scratchplate – it feels like it should come with a copy of Bert Weedon’s Play In A Day. But all this means nothing if it doesn’t play well and sound good.
As we take ours out of its box, it’s noticeable that the Nocturne Blue doesn’t just look good in the photos, and if you’re worried about those tuners being a bit Meccano, you’ll be pleased to hear that the Jim Dandy turned up with its tuning almost perfectly intact.
The action is low without buzz, and it’s well intonated across the neck. But if you’re used to sprawling out you might find the reduced scale to be a little bit cramped, particularly when playing open chords. Tonally, it’s as you might expect. Obviously the reduction in body size also means that it’s not going to have the bass and resonance levels of a standard dreadnought.
It’s bright but not brash when strummed, and fingerpicked notes have a definite ‘pluck’ to them, with a strong attack and slightly reduced sustain. But what it lacks in boom, it makes up for with projection, with the ability to be surprisingly loud with a pokey frequency response when you hit it hard.
There aren’t many acoustic guitars that are this much fun, and even fewer from respected names at this price point. The lack of electronics mean you’re likely to pass on the Jim Dandy if you want a gigging guitar (see the Gretsch Gin Rickey for that). But as a play-at-home strummer, campfire traveller or a good quality first acoustic guitar for younger folk, the Jim Dandy has still got it.
- PRICE: $189 / £205
- TOP: Basswood
- BACK AND SIDES: Basswood
- NECK: Nato
- FINGERBOARD: Black walnut
- FRETS: 18
- SCALE: 24-inch
- HARDWARE: Die-cast Gretsch vintage-style
- LEFT-HANDED: No
- CONTACT: Gretsch (opens in new tab)