Based in Georgetown, Ontario, Eastwood was established by Mike Robinson, whose obsession with oddball electrics saw him set up an operation in 2002 to re-create some of the strangest six-strings that emerged from America, Europe and the Far East during the 1950s, 1960s and beyond.
Eastwood's intention is to improve on these oldies by combining their cool looks with updated performance abilities. Cost considerations mean that some quirkier original features have to be omitted, amended or replaced by modern, more generic equivalents, but overall character is kept intact.
Focusing on forgotten heroes has elevated Eastwood to the forefront of the back to the future sector in today's electric market. To expand on the brand's essentially niche appeal, some recent models are variations on vintage themes, catering for more contemporary styles. The Airline 1959 1P comes into this category, being a stripped-down alternative to its more period-correct partners and aimed at young players not interested in the past, but who fancy something a bit different.
Like the rest of the range, this newcomer is manufactured in Korea, but the design is all-Eastwood. It's based on an oddly angular original made during the US by Valco, a US company that produced electrics bearing a variety of brandnames, including National and Supro, while Airline versions were made for the Montgomery Ward mail order operation. This model appeared in various forms and the body style later became associated with American bluesman JB Hutto. High-profile patronage by White Stripes' guitarist Jack White has recently elevated the appeal and values of vintage examples.
The headstock originally came in either single-sided or three-tuners-per-side form, and the modern Airlines accurately adopt the latter. The asymmetric shape pulls strings sideways, increasing friction at the nut, so the latter needs extra attention to eliminate possible snagging. The review guitar requires some work, as creaking and abrupt tuning jumps negate the smooth operation of the vintage Kluson-type Wilkinson tuners.
The bolt-on maple neck has a shallow-ish C-shape profile that's significantly more friendly than the original%u2019s deep D. With neatly fitted block markers, the bound and lightly cambered rosewood fingerboard is equally inviting, helped by 20 well-finished vintage slim frets.
In the mid-1960s, many Valco guitars featured semi-hollow Res-O-Glas moulded bodies with front and rear fibreglass shells screwed together via a basic wooden interior frame with a rubber gasket hiding the join around the sides. Eastwood employs semi-solid mahogany construction to achieve an equally lightweight end result. The gasket is present and correct, ditto the German carve indent around the body border on both front and back.
Matching the neck, the body is finished in a high-gloss red polyester that helps engender an authentically synthetic image. The dense colour is contrasted by a white laminate scratchplate with curves enhanced by silk-screened pin-striping.
Just like Valco's large chrome-covered single-coils, this Airline's solitary pickup sat in a matching white surround that's unfortunately noticeably askew resembles a modern humbucker. Circuitry is restricted to a volume control, inconveniently close to the output jack. The 1P is equipped with a TonePros locking bridge. On the review guitar, all saddles have been pulled way back to obtain correct intonation, suggesting that the location could be improved and allow more adjustments to suit different string gauges. Chrome content is further increased by the flat section tailpiece, with a folded lip securing the strings.
The semi-solid body contributes to a rich acoustic resonance that partners some useful natural sustain. Eastwood's VVSC pickup is quite poky, while its position and single-coil character, plus the body's lightweight construction, ensure a pretty bright response. A twangy bottom end bolsters a nasal midrange, while the spiky treble content delivers good definition.
The transition from clean to dirty provokes a gnarly snarl that suits raunchy chords and snappy leads, although too much gain over-emphasises the upper end, adding an edgy fizz that thins out the sound. Aural versatility isn't exactly abundant, but a progressive volume pot makes the most of its single-handed task, supplying subtle level changes and maintaining clarity all the way back to zero.
2. Eastwood Airline '59 IP