Dubbed the “poor man’s M”, yet retailing at $4,299.00, the M-21 Steve Earle hardly seems like a poor man’s anything. The guitar has a natural lightweight feel across your lap. Strum a G chord and it has that full ring you would expect from a Martin, which is a beautiful thing. LIST PRICE: $4,299.00
Since the mid eighties, Steve Earle’s name has been synonymous with troubadourian greatness in songcraft. The man has had his ups and downs and has no doubt played hundreds, if not thousands of acoustic guitars over the years. He’s come a long way from the old days of “37 dollars and a jap guitar”, so it’s only fitting for Earle to get his very own signature model from the mother of all acoustic guitar makers, Martin and Company.
Following his relocation to New York, the hard-core troubadour hooked up with guitar guru Matt Umanov, who has 40 plus years of experience as a vintage guitar dealer, and was soon turned on to Martin’s “M”, or grand auditorium series. Dubbed the “poor man’s M”, yet retailing at $4,299.00, the M-21 Steve Earle hardly seems like a poor man’s anything. However, considering it’s still $2,200 bucks cheaper than Ben Harper’s signature M guitar, and is a hell of a lot less ornate, we’ll let that slide. While it has a simple look to it, the M-21 Steve Earle does feature fine solid tonewoods: Italian alpine spruce top; East Indian rosewood back, sides, headplate and fingerboard; and a mahogany neck.
The guitar has a natural lightweight feel across your lap. Strum a G chord and it has that full ring you would expect from a Martin, which is a beautiful thing. There is plenty of low end too, which is surprising for a smaller guitar. The action on the M-21 Steve Earle is such that it is easy to fret chords, unlike a Martin D-28. The Waverly nickel tuners make it easy to venture in and out of different tunings without going sour. I tuned the Low E string down to D and was pleased to hear that Deep, instantly familiar Drone found in so many of Mr. Earle’s finest songs including the classic country rock anthem “Copperhead Road” and “Tennessee Blues” from his latest effort, Washington Square Serenade.
I really enjoyed playing this guitar for the brief time it was in my home and even did a little recording with it. As expected, it performed well in that area too. With its big sound, elegant curves, and understated visual beauty, Martin’s M-21 Steve Earle is a highly impressive instrument. Don’t let the “poor man’s M” label fool you though; this is a serious, professional instrument and is priced as such. Those who can afford one will not be disappointed.