by Lincoln Smith
Eastwood has tackled several artist models over the past few years, celebrating the instruments of Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Trey Anastasio, Peter Hook, and many more. One of the earlier artist-inspired models stands out as a celebration of the unique. It’s a weirdo with a lot of heart, and tells a long story of blues legend Theodore Roosevelt “Hound Dog” Taylor.
Photo: Hound Dog Taylor with his Kawai SD-40
As with anything from Eastwood, the SD-40 Hound Dog hits the right marks in two different directions. It looks to the past by recreating the look and tone of the original Kawai SD-40, but it looks forward in imagining what an instrument like this can be in the modern era.
With the newer tribute, improvements have been made to the feel, the construction, and the functionality that make the SD-40 Hound Dog a professional quality instrument – right at home on the stage or in the studio.
Photo: Eastwood's SD-40 Hound Dog
Let’s get right into the details:
This is a full-scale instrument at 25.5", creating a nice snappy response that’s sometimes missing in vintage Japanese instruments. It features a bolt-on maple neck and bound, rosewood fingerboard. The classic pill-shaped fret markers have not been overlooked.
Despite the larger-than-most ornate body shape, the SD-40 is lighter than you might expect for a four-pickup, tremolo-equipped guitar, thanks to a solid basswood body rather than heavier alder or ash.
Photo: Vintage Kawai SD-40
The Hagstrom-style tremolo of the original has been upgraded to a JM-style tremolo and roller bridge. It’s a combo that ensures you spend as little time thinking about tuning stability as possible.
But of course, we need to talk about the real star of the show. The SD-40 Hound Dog features four Eastwood RTG Single Coil pickups. These are modeled after the popular, rectangular single coil pickup used in many Japanese-made catalogue guitars of the 1960s.
Photo: Hound Dog & his Kawai SD-40
The pickups are particularly low-output and can sound sweet and delicate when played clean; of course, that wouldn’t be doing ol’ Hound Dog any justice. When driven, the RTG Single Coils provide a mid-range focused grit perfect for swampy blues licks.
Each pickup features its own on/off switch and independent volume control – perfect for blending an infinite combo of tonal options. A single master tone can tame the mix however a player sees fit.
It’s not hard to imagine why the model appealed to such a creative as Hound Dog Taylor, who painted masterpieces with his guitar and slide, offering licks nearing a distortion-level of gain. This made for a full palette of colors ready for the stage that would capture the admiration of full Chicago crowds in the ‘60s.
Eastwood is offering this palette to modern players with modern expectations of comfort and quality. You can easily create your own sound with the arsenal of combination, but if played through a Silvertone 1400-series amp or a convincing alternative, you might well believe Hound Dog himself is sitting in on the jam session.