Review: Gretsch Jim Dandy Dreadnought

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Review: Gretsch Jim Dandy Dreadnought

Gretsch Jim Dandy
Words by Christopher Hockey

Gretsch Jim Dandy Dreadnought | Fender Music Australia | RRP $329

The Gretsch fan-favourite acoustic series, the Jim Dandy line, has been newly expanded this year to include an exciting new addition; a budget-friendly Dreadnought model. Originally launched in 2006 as the limited-run ‘Americana Series’, Gretsch’s loyal followers have loved these guitars ever since for their affordability, throwback aesthetic and balanced sound. Now, all that same Jim Dandy swagger is available in a bigger, more versatile shell; the body shape to rule them all, the Dreadnought.

Gretsch Jim Dandy

Gretsch have become ever more competitive in the acoustic world of late thanks to their dedication to making high quality instruments at every price point. The Jim Dandy series exhibits all the groovy eccentricities of Gretsch’s timeless aesthetic whilst being incredibly affordable, an exciting prospect for players at every level. By keeping unnecessary frills to a minimum and utilising more accessible, but still great sounding tonewoods, Gretsch have been able to make the Jim Dandy series incredibly affordable without sacrificing on build quality or tone.

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Featuring a stunning ‘Rex Burst’ finish, the Jim Dandy Dreadnought immediately catches the eye. Named after Gretsch’s mail-order, student-oriented ‘Rex’ guitars from the 30s-50s, this beautiful ‘burst design carries plenty of old world charm from that era. Constructed from laminated Basswood, this model features dark, natural wood back and sides, a black and white Rosette and an effortlessly classy aged-white binding. Finished in a smooth semi-gloss, this guitar’s timeless look is completed by a white pickguard and a Walnut bridge.

Jim Dandy Dreadnought

Constructed with X-Bracing, the Jim Dandy Dreadnought is resonant, lively and has a warm, bass-heavy tonality. This guitar has ample volume and projection thanks to its large body and Basswood construction, perfect for solo artists who are accompanying themselves with strumming-oriented arrangements. Compared to the smaller-bodied models in the Jim Dandy line, the Dreadnought is louder, has a fuller bottom end and is the most well suited to traditional rhythm playing.

Whilst most guitars from the era that inspired the Jim Dandy aesthetic generally had large, cumbersome ‘baseball bat’ style necks, Gretsch have mercifully opted for a well needed update for this guitar’s neck shape. Featuring an ultra-comfortable Fender/Gretsch ‘Modern C’ shape, this Dreadnought will feel very familiar to most players and is made even more playable by its smooth semi-gloss finish. Constructed with Nato, one of Gretsch’s mainstay tonewoods, the neck on this guitar is kept strong and stable by steel-reinforcement and holds its tuning well.

Atop the neck sits a beautiful Walnut fretboard that matches the bridge, tying the vintage design together with pearloid dot inlays and an aged white binding. Clocking in at 20 frets (14 to body) for maximum range and versatility, it has a modest scale length of 24.75” and a relatively tight radius of 12”, optimal for clean fretting and comfortable barre chords.

Completing the instrument’s retro look, its headstock has Gretsch’s classic 3×3 shape and is equipped with white open-gear tuning pegs.

Gretsch Jim Dandy headstock

Whilst this guitar’s ample low-end and balanced sound make it a singer-songwriter’s dream, its generous projection and bright, shimmering highs mean it will cut through just as well in an ensemble situation. Perfect for bluegrass, country, folk, blues and everything in between, this Jim Dandy’s iconic Americana look by no means limits it to any one style. Loud and bright enough to be well suited to finger picking, punchy and warm enough for big, balanced sounding rhythm playing, there’s a reason Dreadnoughts have reigned supreme for so long.

Originally designed back in 1916, the Dreadnought didn’t really come into its own until the Bluegrass explosion of the 1930s. With their booming, boisterous sound and excellent projection, Dreadnoughts were the perfect guitar to keep up with the notoriously loud banjos, fiddles and mandolins featured in Bluegrass ensembles. Since then, Dreadnoughts have become hugely popular across all genres, but they still sound most at home being feverishly flat-picked by new Bluegrass virtuosos like Billy Strings and Molly Tuttle.

Dreadnought history

Adding to the versatility of this particular Dreadnought however, are its sloped shoulders. Traditionally, Dreadnoughts are square shouldered guitars, but rounded-off ‘sloped’ shoulders have gradually become more popular over the years for two key reasons. Firstly, the rounder design of a sloped guitar is more comfortable against the player’s body, avoiding any sharp corners digging into the player’s ribcage. Secondly, the slightly smaller body produces a warmer, mellower sound than traditional Dreadnoughts, giving the guitar a slightly bluesier, more versatile tonality compared to the traditionally bright, booming Bluegrass-oriented tone of the square shouldered design.

This clever choice makes what is already an incredibly versatile guitar even more so, slightly softening the instrument’s shape to make it as balanced and comfortable as possible for beginners and veterans alike. This, combined with its compact scale-length and smooth finish, makes it an incredibly ergonomic guitar to play, especially for its staggeringly low price.

True to its ‘Rex’ inspired roots, the whole Jim Dandy line is very modestly priced, and this model is no exception. This is a highly accessible instrument for students, beginners and even working musicians looking to add a reliable road-dog to their arsenal. Gretsch’s commitment to build quality is as evident as ever in the Jim Dandy series, rare as it is for instruments in this price range to be as loud, sturdy and stable as these fantastic flat-top guitars.

From its alluring, vintage look, its booming yet balanced sound and its excellent playability, the Jim Dandy Dreadnought is a great all-rounder to suit players of all experience levels. The attention to detail within its carefully curated design, the versatility of its tone and its incredibly modest price tag are all testaments to Gretsch’s enduring legacy as masters of their craft. So whether you’re a seasoned flat-picker on the hunt for a new toy or a brand new player looking to buy your first guitar, the Jim Dandy Dreadnought is well worth a look.

For enquiries, visit Gretsch Guitars.