As musicians, we’re dreamers. And we dream big: mostly about great tone, easy load-ins, and bright spotlights. There are also those pining for success in music on the other side—those who create the instruments for us. One such dreamer is Chris Swope, and the luthier cut his teeth in some of the most prestigious training grounds, including Sadowsky and Gibson’s Custom Shop, before taking the next logical step of striking out on his own.
Swope’s guitars have been seen with some of the most confident names in the business, from Nashville-session A-lister Kenny Vaughn to Webb Wilder to Eric Ambel to Ronnie Wood. (Yes, that Ronnie Wood.) Swope’s retro/forward designs, superb craftsmanship, and lust for great tone have made his name a trusted one in a very short time. So, what happens when a talented custom builder decides to build his first production-model bass? We had a chance to find out with the Dakota.
The 34"-scale Dakota seemingly jumped out of its G&G handmade Tolex case with a hint of mod, a splash of bourbon-soaked attitude, and yet a clean and proper appearance that would be suitable enough for a formal dinner. The bass is long on looks, for sure. Our test model was dressed in a tobacco burst with Swope’s “knock-around” finish, which is a light-relic job. It’s also available in a “drag-around” version, which, yes, is a heavier relic treatment. I personally appreciate the approach. Nothing pains me more than putting the first scratch on a new instrument, and especially one in the upper-budget range.
The offset/P-style design is a refreshing look at an old standard. The body is comfy as well. There’s a belly scoop on back of the lightweight, clear-grade alder body, which has a slightly smaller footprint than a P body, yet still feels balanced and familiar. Another interesting feature is the big, Swope-designed humbucker that gets away from the traditional split-P soup.