"Style 7 plus"
One significant defect, but virtually never played!
WHATEVER YOU DO,
DO NOT BUY THIS HARP GUITAR!
Because I want it. Well, actually, I own it. Yes, technically, it's for sale (or my wife will kill me), but the fact of the matter is that I took a chance on this investment, and I'd be an idiot not to hang onto it for as long as possible.
Speaking of idiots - everyone passed this up when it was listed on EBay a few weeks ago. I assume that it didn't sell because of the nasty crack it suffered on the inside of the arm from an improperly made Cedar Creek harp guitar case (since repaired). Oh, boo hoo. That's all they're worried about? I find it ironic that an otherwise spectacular instrument goes unsold at a ridiculously fair price - due to a full, honest disclosure - whereas meanwhile, all sorts of thrashed harp guitars with a plethora of visible defects and a whole host of hidden, undisclosed defects sell for too much. Oh, those misguided snipers!
Upon contacting the owner about listing it here (he was anxious for a quick sale, so didn't go for it) I learned that it was the very instrument played by Andy Wahlberg on my very own Harp Guitar Dreams CD. Andy vouched for it as well (why he didn't snag it is one of life's great mysteries). I know Merrill instruments well, having heard several, including Stephen Bennett's own (#1), which was long the best sounding harp guitar I had ever heard - until Kathy Wingert topped it (her #2 is SB's new chosen harp guitar). So how could I go wrong?
Well, I couldn't. I was hoping it would be decent enough to sell, but I really didn't expect to discover that I might actually want or need to keep it. In person, the repaired damage didn't look as bad as it did in the photos (nor did the two other minor finish blemishes/scratches shown). The repair is rock solid (cleated inside), and once you get over it, you really don't notice it - you never see it while you're playing, and neither does the audience. What everyone sees is what Jim Merrill says is the most beautiful harp guitar he has ever built. I don't doubt it - it is certainly the fanciest (the standard "Stephen Bennett model" is based on his unadorned, unbound Dyer Style 4). All the woods are absolutely top grade, fit and finish are a 10, and he clearly splurged on all materials, including Waverly tuners and special order purfling - a combination of classic vintage and modern ultra-detailing. I especially like the subtle and distinctive white/red/white binding on the sides. The finish (which I assume was deliberate) is a reduced-glare satin spray finish.
Plays like a dream (I may lower the action a hair) and sounds like a Merrill, meaning fantastic. Though it sounds a bit "tight" - as it's virtually never been played - it still sounds better than most other instruments. And I suspect that once played in for a year, it'll sound like Stephen Bennett (well, the instrument will - you or I won't). Electronics feature a Pick Up the World stereo under-saddle pickup system, with a Stereo PUTW Pre-amp (plugs into the tail jack).
The included case is what Stephen Bennett originally used (he now uses my HGM set) - a wonderful Cedar Creek case that has a larger-than-it-needs-to-be accessories box that the arm wraps around. Supposedly, Cedar Creek made a construction error that caused the mentioned damage and this was fixed. But one should still put extra padding around this area. If one wishes to lighten their load, I will happily substitute my HGM gig bag/flight case combo, and re-offer the case by itself.
Some perspective: Jim told the previous owner that if ordered today this guitar would be over $10,000. Add to that an $800+ Cedar Creek case and a few hundred for the pro Pick Up the World system, and what we have is a killer package worth over $11,000 - if "as new." For the damage compensation, I've taken off a full 25% - which may or may not be fair - it's a tricky call, I know. But frankly, I'm here looking at and playing this thing...and I'd be an idiot to let it go for less.
I'll repeat - please don't even think of buying this!
(but don't tell my wife I said so)
-Gregg Miner, the "harp guitar pope"
DVDs by Stephen Bennett, John Doan, Muriel Anderson, Andy McKee,
Stacy Hobbs, Tom Shinness, Dan LaVoie, James Kline, Larry
Berwald, Bill Dutcher, Gregg Miner, Pasquale Taraffo
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