Issue: Holiday 2016
Tested By Mike Molenda
The Goldfinch looks as if it were built by a crazed backwoods luthier with a thing for highly-figured woods, and, well, birds (check out that feathered-friend pickguard). Designed by New Jersey artist Philip Samuel Smith and made in Chicago from local, Illinois-milled renewable woods, the Goldfinch’s construction is wonky enough (imprecise pickguard cuts, imperfect body routs, raised control knobs, screwed-down metal headstock logo) to merit its “made-by-hand, one-at-a-time" vibe, but it's far from just a unique art piece from some roadside timbersmith. A few cosmetic issues aside, the Goldfinch is actually built to withstand road rigors like a world champ. All hardware is battened-down, the neck is screwed in airlock tight and the pickups don't rattle about. It took some getting used to the reversed, upside-down tuners, but otherwise, this guitar is a joy to play. The wide, satin-finish neck feels great in your hands, and the instrument’s near gravity-defying, feather-light weight certainly doesn't suck for long gigs and studio sessions. And though the Goldfinch can appear a bit roughhewn, I appreciated the little "luxury" touches of rounded-nut edges and smooth fret end. I could play this bird all day period
Rather than a three-way selector, Dumont offers a Blend control to bounce between pickups. Initially I thought I wouldn't dig the knob, But after playing with it, I found it to be delightful and capable of dialing in subtle tonal colors. The custom DeMont Goldfinch single-coils are really something. There's solid resonance to every note, and an articulate but not edgy “pop” no matter where you set the blend. There are awesome blues tones here–depending on your attack, you can evoke SRV or Rory Gallagher with ease–and, as a bonus, the Goldfinch somehow manages to produce warm and how wonderful out-of-phase-type sounds with just two pickups. Chords possess stout mid range punch that never gets muddy or shrill, even during punk-rock-style pounding. Visually, the Goldfinch may be an acquired taste if you're not wowed by natural wood, but as a comfortable player with an armory of boss tones, this machine sure ain't no tweety bird. It's a fire-breathing dragon.
BURLINGTON COUNTY TIMES
November 11, 2016
"THE WORLD ON A STRING"
Mount Laurel man designs a guitar that's playable art
By Gail T. Boatman
MOUNT LAUREL–Artist, musician and environmentalist, Phillip Smith can hardly remember a time when he wasn't thinking about guitars. He loved to listen to them and play them. But there was something else.
He also like to look at them. Even as a young boy, Smith found them aesthetically pleasing.
"For me, the guitar was a piece of art," he said.
As a younger's student, Smith mowed lawns in his neighborhood to earn enough money to add to his collection of vintage instruments, many purchased for bargain prices at the Columbus farmers market.
He was home schooled for elementary school and later attended Baptist Regional High School in Haddon Heights, Camden County, now Rowen College at Burlington County.
That was half a lifetime ago, and now, at 25, his passion for the instrument has not diminished. In his latest project, Smith has woven together his separate loves: art, music and the environment.
In his home workspace, he designed an electric guitar he named the Goldfinch, a bow to the diminutive, yellow and black state bird and also to his reverence for the beauty of the Pine Barrens, where he hikes once or twice a week, weather permitting.
"It's my shoutout to that area," Smith said.
The instrument is being manufactured in Chicago by DeMont guitars and will be featured in the holiday issue of guitar player magazine. Three models will be available, priced from $550-$750.
"It's affordable," Smith said, adding that he would love every young person to be able to play the guitar.
His instrument is also made of sustainable woods such as poplar, rock maple and walnut. The type of wood used affects the sound of the guitar, according to Smith
"It's an art guitar," Smith said, "Playable but also art."
The project is the culmination of a dream for the musician, and he is now dedicating his available time to marketing activities, including trips to New York city, where he visits guitar stores to introduce and promote the instrument I would love to be doing this full time," said Smith, the oldest of five children.
Meanwhile, he sells prints at art shows, works on graphics for UPS, and plays as a session musician for a recording studio in Evesham.
A fan of progressive rock from the 1960s and 70s Smith admires Steve Howe, the guitarist from the English band Yes. For Smith, the band represents a culmination of the music of Les Paul and Chet Atkins.