CD & Book Reviews
Review of Oldtown EM-5
By Stephen Potter, Plymouth, England
Thirty years ago I first heard the Horslips, the granddaddy of all the Celtic-rock bands since. Their mandolin and fiddle player Charles O'Connor used a solid body electric mandolin which had a sound I'd never heard, and wanted to make immediately! Very different to a semi-acoustic mandolin with a pickup and very, very different to an amplified acoustic mandolin.
Many years later I finally got around to getting that sound. Not with a Florentine, which were in their final year of production when I first heard one, but with one of Oldtown Mandolins' contemporary versions. And what a version.
The instrument will be around a lot longer than me. Beautifully made, beautiful to play and look at and simply a class act. Build, quality, and finish are excellent, the action is so easy the thing plays itself, superbly balanced but when you plug it in ... then the fun starts! Mine has an EMG Select pickup that delivers a pure ringing sustain which can be cutting or mellow or any shade in between with use of the extremely effective tone control, the most genuinely musical one I've ever used in terms of creating a different sound. The volume control, too, delivers real punch—be careful!
My instrument is in Antique Sunburst and looks like it's been around for years. Not because it looks old, but because it looks good, like it came from a time when quality wasn't just a slogan. And that quality does come at a price. Frankly, an astoundingly low one, considering the level of build and finish involved. This mandolin feels like I've always had it and always will because I can't think of a reason to change it. Unless I order a solid black lacquer finish octave mandolin. Now there's a thought....