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Joseph Cotton

... After an initial consultation with John Mark about what I was hoping for, I spent some time putting together quite a list of what my ultimate guitar would be. I wanted acoustic guitar-like tone-woods, and for the pickups to be direct mounted, so that all those juicy vibrations would affect the magnetic field of the pickups. I wanted a vibrato (whammy bar), but only if it maintained a lot of contact between strings and body wood. I wanted a figured body and fretboard, with a single inlay covering the 11–13 frets. In fact, I made a drawing for the inlay and John Mark was able to hand-cut it out of abalone and mother of pearl. There were many other requests, and amazingly, John Mark was able to check every single one off the list! With the direct mount pickups, he was able to not just direct mount them but to also come up with an ingenious system for making their heights adjustable — something I've not seen any other luthier be able to do. When it came time to carve the neck, we matched it to my own hand's natural shape, and the woods used are unconventional per my request. Spanish Cedar — commonly used for high end classical guitars — makes up the heart wood and neck wood, with a gorgeous quilted maple top and burled maple back cap completing the look. The fingerboard is a highly figured rosewood, setting off the inlay perfectly. He engineered a low angle for string break, plus a truly straight string line to the machine heads, resulting in noticeably lower tension. The neck joint is so invisible that most players think the neck and the body are all one single billet of wood. John Mark researched and found a vibrato system from Wilkinson which effects all the string-to-body contact you could want, paired with a graphite nut for tuning stability.

In short, Kenaniah is my dream guitar, but I can confidently say that it would be any guitar player's dream guitar. All the features which make a $12,000 guitar cost what it does are present in Kenaniah. The engineering is impeccable, the craftsmanship is lovingly considered, and the artistry of the luthier is an ever-present enhancement to the player's own ideas. Kenaniah's tone is highly defined by its woods, much more so than any guitar with spring-mounted pickups. With a direct connection to a PA or acoustic guitar amplifier, I can turn off all effects and it sounds like an acoustic guitar. Disengage the tweeter on the amp, or plug into an electric guitar amp and it can generate tones from a Nashville twang through to a throaty British jam. For those building a Keneniah model with John Mark, my first suggestion would be to carefully select your tone woods, because their character will come through in a way you're probably not used to. That is a wonderful thing, since the vibrations you feel from the instrument against your stomach when you play will be the sounds you hear from your gear.


There are no dead spots on the neck, no unwanted feedback — but it will feedback when you need it to, and the controls are beautifully easy to use. I continue to play Kenaniah exclusively and find fresh inspiration on my tone journey every time I play him. Yes, it's a "him". It's Kenaniah, and there's nothing like him

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