Red Valley Mandolins
Red Valley mandolins are made in Boise, Idaho by James Wilson, who did his time working for the Dusty Strings folks in Seattle, building harps and hammered dulcimers. One look at these instruments and you recognize that the maker has been at it a while, so the joints and binding and frets all have that “not rushed and no apologies” consistency, with a high degree of fit and finish.
The Gibson-style mandolin has ruled the double-strung 8-string roost in America for a long time, but if you were to dial back the time machine to a century ago, when the mandolin craze was in full swing, you’d see a lot more variety in mandolin types than you’ll find in a typical bluegrass jam session today. But bluegrass isn’t the only kind of music played on mandolins, Bill Monroe and Chris Thiele aren’t the only players who chose mandolin, and if you step outside that limited “carved tops and chop chords” circle there’s a wide range of mandolin music that’s easier to play and appeals to a wide audience. For one thing, Irish and folk music styles are more likely to utilize open chords with ringing strings, rather than the percussive “chop chord” style that bluegrass demands.
Flattop mandolins, made more like small flattop guitars, are perfect for this style and offer lots of sustain and a more resonant tone. You can play a simple Irish tune or folk song and revel in the tone of the instrument even if you’re not playing at breakneck speed on heavy strings to avoid being drowned out by a banjo player. Gryphon has sold a lot of flattop mandolins in the past, and that’s how Flatiron mandolins got started. Years later we sold Mid-Missouri mandolins by the dozens, plus Petersen octave mandolins but Flatiron, Petersen, and Mid-Missouri mandolins are no longer available, so we’ve been offering a great range of carved-top carved-back mandolins but little else. Considering how many of those flattop mandolins we sold in the ‘80s and ‘90s you’d think we would be getting lots of used ones back again, but that rarely happens. Why? Folks hang onto them!
Thanks to James Wilson’s Red Valley mandolins, Gryphon is now offering a wider range of mandolin family instruments than ever before. And for American-made, all-solid-wood instruments, Red Valley offers great tone, playability, and workmanship at highly affordable prices.
Thanks to a slightly shorter scale length than most octave mandolin models, the Red Valley OAM is easy to play, and since it’s tuned an octave below your regular mandolin you don’t have to learn a different tuning. It’s a great way to add bass response, makes an excellent mandolin for backing vocals, and is available at a price that won’t break the bank. If you and a mandolin player know the same tune, you’ve got a great alternative arrangement and a much wider tonal range with minimum hassles.
The Red Valley AMW Wide Body Mandolin delivers more volume and bass response than a typical mandolin since it has a wider and deeper body, plus an Engelmann spruce top and the back and sides are bubinga, an exotic hardwood that sounds a lot like rosewood. So think “Dreadnought version of a mandolin” and you’ve got a good idea of what this Red Valley model is about. It’s not harder to play or to hold, but it has a warmer tone with more sustain and bass response. Try playing some chords with open strings and you’ll find this model rings forever! Great for Irish tunes, or playing simple fills to round out an arrangement.