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.