Raise a glass to Eastwood, the fearless reissue merchants for whom no guitar of the past is seemingly deemed unworthy of resurrecting. This month we’re dusting off the coily white lead and cranking the reverb to sample a bluesy semi-acoustic.
There never was an Airline Jupiter, but there was a Silvertone Jupiter made by Harmony, who sold much the same guitar as the H-49 Stratotone. The originals had a three-bolt neck and a semi-solid body with a spruce top and back and maple sides, plus Rowe/DeArmond pickups which delivered classic twang with a vengeance.
Today’s Jupiter riffs on these themes without being a slavish copy. The body is maple, and the maple neck is fixed on with four bolts and a metal plate.
This reissue has a more rounded, less dumpy-looking bottom bout and the independent tone and volume controls are located on the body rather than in line on a curving white scratchplate. Eastwood has chosen to omit the original ‘tone blender’ circuit, but the ‘flipper’ style three-way pickup selector remains.
The redburst finish with the white scratchplate looks the business, and overall this guitar has a very stylish appeal. The bound rosewood neck is a pleasure to play; it’s thin without being skinny and favours fast, accurate playing.
Unplugged, the hollow build gives good volume, which makes it an ideal late-night couch guitar. You might imagine the rosewood bridge would encourage a very mellow tone, but the guitar is surprisingly bright with plenty of pick-edge scratchiness.
The Jupiter sounds bright and clear with good midrange clarity but a slightly understated bass. As a singer/songwriter guitar it gets top marks, and old-school pop instrumentals sound really authentic. The Airline Argyle Diamonds have a similar spec to the old DeArmonds; even the grille pattern emulates the ‘multi-diamond’ look.
There’s not a huge difference in sound between the three positions: there’s a toppy tone from the bridge, full-spectrum clarity with both units together, and a slightly warmer brogue from the neck. This tonal closeness is an advantage, as you can really work the variations though a song for creating nuance.
Surprisingly for an instrument with a ’50/’60s pedigree this guitar doesn’t have a mellow jazz chord comping voice: even with the tone rolled off a certain brightness cuts through. A little amp grit and reverb is great for rockabilly, and mid-level distortion turns the Jupiter into a wiry ’60s blues machine or modern alt-rock contender.
Too much drive seems to choke the tone so it won’t really compete as a rock soloist, but you can cover much of the dirty territory for which you might employ a Gretsch Duo Jet with Dynasonics… and it sounds excellent with a germanium fuzz and tremolo.