Operating under his full name "D.W. Stevens," Denny Stevens was a talented Colorado-based luthier who built instruments designed to produce excellent sound when new and as they continue to age become louder and more open for many years to come. Unfortunately, health issues cut Denny's career short, and he passed away at the age of 66. Because of that, only 198 DW Stevens instruments were ever built, and 130 of them were flattop acoustic guitars.
Denny built this D.W. Stevens J-44 in 1992. It is essentially a straightforward dreadnought body with a 25-1/2" scale length. It has a nice even-grain Spruce top that shows perfect book match, and its back and sides are a light red/orange cut of Rosewood. Inside the guitar, the X-bracing pattern shows the clear influence of C.F. Martin (as to be expected). Interestingly, the X-braces are scalloped, but the tone bars are not scalloped. This is a popular configuration on modern guitars that helps accommodate quicker, more accurate response with greater overall volume.
Typical of comparable independent-luthier-made guitars, it was built with quality components throughout. It has a solid Mahogany neck with an Ebony fingerboard and an Ebony bridge. Its bone nut measures 1-11/16", and the string spacing is 2-15/64" at the saddle. Combined with a shallower, more modern neck carve (whereas many independent luthiers opt for a beefier V-shaped neck), the narrower taper allows for a guitar that is approachable and easy to play.
This 1992 D.W. Stevens J-44 is a fantastic-sounding dreadnought with a robust, but balanced voice. Its tone is throaty and powerful, more than accomodating for any flatpicker or strummer who needs volume. But it can also produce delicate, refined sounds with a light touch. The fit and finish show meticulous attention to detail—true to Denny's reputation. The fingerboard has been refretted, a strap button was installed on the neck heel, and it has a K&K Pure Mini pickup under the hood, too. It is a true players' guitar, and because of that, it has been played and used professionally! As a consequence, it shows moderate playwear, and there's an especially noticeable scrape across the upper bout of the top and wear around the sound-hole. Nevertheless, it is in nice shape all around, and it has no history of nasty repairs or issues.
This 1992 D.W. Stevens would be an excellent choice for anyone who wants the individualized voicing and unique character of a hand-built, independent-luthier guitar. Considering the sound, playability, build quality, and top-notch components, it also seems like an exceptional value. Plus, Denny's clever stylings (dig the headstock and the pcikguard!) provide something traditional, but different from the rest. Original hardshell case included.