What is it?
The latest acoustic guitar from Adam Black is named for Highway 61, which as you know is ground zero for the Delta blues origin story.
That's where Robert Johnson made his Faustian deal at Clarksdale, Mississippi, right on the crossroads of 49 and 61.
Legend says it was at these crossroads that devil offered some fast-tracked blues chops in exchange for Johnston's soul – a blessing wrapped up in a curse, but of course, in those days, there were no guitar magazines to walk you through the pentatonics and blues scales. Desperate times require desperate measures.
Now, here's the rub: besides the name, what does the Adam Black Route 61 CE have to do with Robert Johnson, who played a small-bodied Depression-era Gibson L-1 or KG-14? Not much is the answer.
The Route 61 has is finished in Mississippi Mud Burst, which dates it quite nicely, and the tonewood cocktail here, of solid spruce and laminated mahogany on the back and sides, is at least in keeping the with the L-1 recipe. The body shape, however, not to mention the Fishman Presys II under-saddle piezo and preamp combo, make this a very different guitar.
Available with a cutaway or without, the Route 61 is an orchestra-sized acoustic wider than it is deep. Indeed, only 110mm, it is shallower than your granddaddy's dreadnought. Elsewhere, there is a three-piece mahogany neck and a purpleheart (aka amaranth) fretboard.
Performance and verdict
Out of the box, the Mississippi Mud Burst looks the part. It is a classy retro finish that gives the solid-spruce top that recovered look – as though the guitar was in its fifth decade and recovered from a jumble sale. To see it reprised on the headstock is a nice touch.
This being a solid-spruce top, we're expecting it to deliver bright, articulate upper-mids and treble – especially with the shallower body – but there's a beef to the lower end that took us by surprise, with a substantial midrange that feels pre-EQ'd for a band setting.
The Route 61 in many respects is big and bold. There's the heft to its tone, and with its width, it's certainly big to get to grips with, and a little fight with that factory setup. That should just encourage you to hit it harder, and it responds in kind. The harder you hit those chords, the better it sounds.
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It may not have the variety of tone for advanced soloists, but it has an everyman appeal and enough panache to fool you into thinking it’s worth more.
Its amplified tone is impressive, too. That is to say that the Fishman under-saddle piezo is mercifully low on the quack factor, and altogether the setup does a good job of staying faithful to the Route 61's tone profile.
The Presys II's controls are mounted on the guitar's shoulder, with an onboard tuner, volume and tone. For 350 bucks you've got everything you need for the stage. That's where the Route 61 seems most comfortable. After all, you don't do deals with the devil just so you blow your cat away with cowboy chords.
MusicRadar verdict: The Route 61 is an electro-acoustic that pulls off the neat trick of having a shallow body but deep and wide tone, with a low end and mid-range power that is ideal for playing in a band.
- TOP: Solid spruce
- BACK & SIDES: Laminate mahogany
- NECK: 3-piece mahogany
- SCALE LENGTH: 25.5”
- FINGERBOARD: Purpleheart
- FRETS: 20
- ELECTRONICS: Fishman Presys II and under-saddle piezo
- HARDWARE: Black chrome
- LEFT-HANDED: No
- FINISH: Missisippi Mud Burst
- CONTACT: Rosetti