Classic Guitar Review - E. A. (Ed) Foley Custom Dreadnaught (1992)

Great luthiers, like many talented craftsmen, spend their lives putting their hearts and souls into building great instruments, receiving little of the recognition that they deserve. A well-known and highly-respected luthier may not be known outside of the region in which he works. Living on the West Coast, I can say that Ed Foley's name and guitars are not exactly household names. This is particularly puzzling because Ed has made guitars for the Legendary Father of Bluegrass Bill Monroe, Owner and Founder of Groove Tubes and G.T. Electronics Aspen Pittman and Country Music Star George Strait. Not every luthier has 4 pages of testimonial excerpts from letters of owners!

The "Classic" Guitar under review is a 1992 scallop-braced dreadnaught made with an Englemann Spruce Top and 3-piece Brazilian Rosewood back and sides. Other features include:
1) Top trimmed with Abalone & Abalone rosette;
2) Ebony fingerboard completely trimmed in Abalone;
3) Abalone Hexagon-shaped fret markers;
4) Headstock with Ebony face-plate, Abalone custom inlay & Abalone binding;
4) Carved diamond volute on back of headstock;
5) Ebony bridge with diamond Abalone inlay;
6) Bone nut, bone saddle & bone endpins;
7) Gold-plated Martin tuners;
8) Round neck shape with 1 11/16" nut width & 25.4" scale;

Ed's inspiration comes from the legendary Martin guitars of the 1930's through early 1940's; the Pre-War years. The guitar under review, #57 was Ed's contemporary version of the very rare Pre-War D-45. While the D-45 was Martin's most elaborately inlaid model, Ed has taken things a bit further by inlaying the ebony fingerboard with abalone as well as inlaying the border of the Ebony-plated headstock.

Picking up the guitar for the first time, its' sheer beauty is enough to take your breath away! The abalone trimmed top, fingerboard and headstock with the abalone rosette reflect the countless hours that were spent inlaying handpicked slivers of abalone into a channel between the binding. Once these slivers of abalone are set into the channel, they are sanded and lacquered. There is also a custom abalone inlay of a heart on the headstock, which itself has an ebony face-plate. The care, dedication and time that it must have taken to do this means that Ed wants his guitars to be the best!

Hitting the obligatory E chord for the first time is a revelation. There is a richness in tone that is reminiscent of a grand-piano. It sounds deep, yet very clear with excellent separation and superior sustain. You know from the very first chord that this is one special guitar made by a very talented builder. It is also a very sensitive guitar that responds well to a light touch. When I played this guitar in front of non-guitar playing friends, they all commented on the sound and were very taken with the guitars aesthetics.

Doing a little flatpicking, Ed's dread really shined. I guarantee you that you will be heard over the crowd with this guitar! I was struck by the rare tonal qualities exhibited - crisp, warm, ringing and powerful. Like a highly-tuned sports-car, Ed's guitar was genuinely exciting and left me with the feeling that there was much more horsepower waiting in reserve. It delivered low-end boom when you want it as well as ringing, clear, bell-like highs.

Having established that it was great with the heavy lifting of rhythm work and flatpicking, it was time to try a little fingerpicking. Needless to say, I was not disappointed. The volume was plentiful, note separation and sustain were excellent with the same elegantly rich tone coming through.

Conclusion: VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! If the opportunity presents itself to play a Foley, you will have a guitar-playing experience that will be absolutely inspiring. From it's drop-dead good looks, tone that has to be heard to be believed and playability will make you want to keep playing it, Ed's guitars are very special instruments. They inspire the player to try new and different things because it gives the player more than they expect a guitar to be able to deliver, making for a guitar that is a great partner for a long term relationship. Viewed in this long-term context, a custom Foley's are very reasonably priced. Whether you order a guitar that has abalone everywheres or a plain-Jane, you get a guitar that delivers high-quality tone and playability that makes it something that you want to keep and keep playing and playing and playing.


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