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Eastman ER2 El Rey Guitar

Naming a guitar El Rey takes a certain assuredness as, from the Spanish, El Rey translates to The King. Not that there needs to be any one singular king among six-strings, and not that luthier Otto D’Ambrosio is literally declaring his archtop design THE KING. Nevertheless, along with the name comes expectation. At the very least, D’Ambrosio has Eastman Guitars’ support. The company has placed the El Rey among its increasingly popular line of handsome jazz boxes, and Eastman wouldn’t have done that if the guitar weren’t something special. Still, in guitardom, it’s guitarists who truly play kingmaker. Let’s see if this one’s fit for a throne.

It’s pretty small for a king, really. The 14-inch El Rey body looks a bit like a Les Paul that’s been squashed lengthwise in a vise. It’s an oddly attractive shape that echoes aesthetics of the 1920s and ’30s while innovating guitar designs for the future. No one could confuse it with a Les Paul upon picking it up-it weighs five pounds and change, due to a fully hollow body that’s about two inches thick. The body is mahogany, save for the hand-carved spruce top and a few stripes of maple binding. All this beautiful wood grain is preserved beneath an antique-ish, deep brown finish that Eastman has been perfecting since introducing its first archtop guitar some six years ago. Mahogany makes up the neck as well, which is capped with an ebony fingerboard garnished with sleek, non-obtrusive mother-of-pearl inlay. A sculpted ebony tailpiece adds a nice bit of balance to the El Rey’s appearance. The gold-plated Gotoh tuners and gold-colored Kent Armstrong humbuckers and tune-o-matic bridge could use a set of matching gold-plated (or perhaps wooden) control knobs-that seems a more regal choice than the standard plastic used here. But without question the El Rey’s windswept profile and overall impeccable hardware additions create an understated, undeniable beauty.

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