BATSON GUITAR CO.
BY CHARLES SAUFLEY
Evolution is slow in the guitar universe. And when you consider how many
50-year-old instruments—or even 150
-year-old instruments—have come to represent
design “perfection,” you can understand
why. But while guitar purists may look
askance at any attempt to improve the
dread, the OM, the Les Paul, or the
Telecaster, many engineering minds still
consider the 6-string a blank slate calling
out for revision.
Nashville-based Cory Batson is clearly of
this more irreverent school. A woodworker
and student of electrical engineering,
Batson is also a self-trained luthier. And he’s
nabbed the attention of players such as Phil
Keaggy and fingerstyle wiz Don Ross with
guitars distinguished by side soundports,
truss bracing, and cantilevered fretboards.
With the help of his woodworking
brother and business partner, Grant Batson,
Cory has built Batson Guitars into one
of the more respected new acoustic guitar
companies in a Nashville music community
that can be wary of innovation. Batson guitars have never been inexpensive, however.
Though it’s not cheap, the brothers’ latest
model, the handbuilt No. 5, is an effort to
make their offerings more affordable.
The Sum of Changes
The mahogany-and-spruce No. 5 we
received for review is evidence that Batson
hasn’t taken any shortcuts on the innovations that have made their instruments special from the beginning. The guitar’s bridge
looks like it was inspired by the organic
shapes in ’70s furniture design, with fluid
curves that are both comfortable for fingerstyle playing and practical—adding mass
and structural reinforcement where the
strings pass through the bridge from saddle
Our No. 5 is built around a traditional
grand concert-style body profile. But simi-
larities to any cookie-cutter version of that
style end there. The most overt difference
is the lack of a center soundhole. Though
this is more common on boutique guitars
than it used to be, it still gives the No. 5 an
oddly minimalist visage that takes a minute
or two to adjust to.