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Veillette Parlor 14-Inch
Adventurously styled acoustic-electric broadens the definition of parlor guitar.
by Charles Saufley, Acoustic Guitar Magazine, January 2010
Luthier Joe Veillette has been building guitars for nearly four decades. By his own admission, he has become known for making "weird stuff," everything from baritone and high-strung 12-strings to short-scale nylon-string acoustic basses. But however left-of-center Veillette's works look to the traditionalist, the Woodstock, New York-based luthier has built an enviable clientele, including Kaki King, Jorma Kaukonen, James Taylor, and Dave Matthews. As a seasoned player and former architecture student, he brings daring and practical sensibilities to his guitars. And his inventive approach to design has also resulted in unique variations on more common instruments, such as the Parlor 14-inch we received for review.
VISUAL HALLMARKS OF INDIVIDUALITY
The Parlor's body profile features an offset waist and an extended lower bass bout that evokes Leo Fender's Jaguar/ Jazzmaster models. The jet-age design motif is echoed further in the two boomerang-shaped "moon" soundholes in the upper bout of the guitar.
The guitar's body – just 14 inches wide – is constructed with a beautiful Sitka spruce top and finished in a not-too-flashy, but gorgeous, Vintage Red sunburst that glows with wine and nectarine hues. The back, sides, and neck are made of tight- and straight-grained mahogany that accents the instrument's overall air of quality and craft.
A look inside reveals the Parlor's unique design idiosyncrasies. The substantial, gracefully arching mahogany neckblock — which seems to be inspired by Veillette's architectural studies — lends structural integrity where the sides join and supports the top as well as Veillette's unique bolt-on neck. Veillette believes that his neck joint, which uses just one bolt and is inspired more by solid-body electric guitars than acoustic construction conventions, improves sustain. And because the neck fits into a slot cut into the neckblock, the Parlor has no neck heel, making it easier for players to reach the guitar's highest frets. A zero fret, which Veillette uses to improve intonation and uniformity of tone, also lends a unique look and feel.
Volume and treble knobs, mounted just aft of the waist, control the Parlor's onboard, 18-volt D-Tar Wave-Length preamp and are unobtrusive, if unusually placed, but are easier to adjust than the sliders that are found on many preamp control sets.
MIDRANGE PUNCH AND IMPRESSIVE SUSTAIN
The Veillette Parlor 14-lnch is responsive and brimming with personality and packs a cutting, midrange punch that works across several playing styles. Like many small-bodies, the Veillette's strengths are not in heavy strumming — aggressively strummed open chords exhibit a compressed quality. But the guitar comes alive on arpeggiated and
|AT A GLANCE|
Solid Sitka spruce top. Solid mahogany back and sides. Two-piece mahogany bolt- on neck. Ebony fretboard and bridge. T usq nut and saddle. 25-inch scale. H/4-inch nut width. 2V4-inch string spacing at the saddle. Polyester finish. Gotoh tuners. D-Tar Wave-Length electronics. Light-gauge La Bella strings. Made in USA.
THIS IS COOL|
Husky, biting, and warm tones. Great for slide and fingerstyle.
Small body means less bass oomph.
Improvisations in D A D G A D highlight the Parlor's very vocal and harmonic-rich tonal palette, and both open and fretted single notes ring with concise fundamental tones and a subtle overtone glow. Individual notes — particularly in the bass range — sustain impressively in a manner that belies the guitar's small size.
The Parlor's brassy bark, which has some of the compressed tonal qualities of an archtop or resonator, had me itching to explore the guitar's voice as a slide instrument, so I eagerly tuned to open G for some country blues excursions and found that the Parlor's lively nature makes slide glissandos shimmer with overtones and detail. As I played on, I gravitated toward languid, spacey passages that highlighted the instrument's ample sustain, resonance, and harmonic depth.
ACCURATE ELECTRIC TONES
Leaving the guitar in open G, I plugged the Parlor into a Fender Acoustasonic 30 amp to check out the instrument's onboard D-Tar Wave-Length under-saddle pickup system. As I worked through a series of arpeggiated flatpick phrases, some modal fingerstyle, and atmospheric slide passages, the Wave-Length did a superb job of reproducing the Parlor's overtones, punch, and sustain, as well as its warm, husky character. It's an exceedingly simple and forgiving system, with just a volume and tone knob. And neither bass- nor treble-heavy settings induced feedback, except at the highest volumes.
READY FOR THE SPOTLIGHT
With a voice that ranges from molasses-rich and colorful to focused and barky, the Parlor 14-lnch is an instrument well-suited to the performing or session musician or the casual player looking beyond strictly classic tones and style. It has many of the tonal requisites to be an ideal recording guitar, even if it lacks a heavy bottom end and the ceiling to accommodate heavy strumming. And with a D-Tar Wave-Length system that fits the guitar like a glove, it would make a great stage guitar-especially for performers who like to travel light and are willing to stake out more unique tonal turf in the mix.