Daisy Rock Retro-H De-Luxe

My glorious ’99 Guild X160 has been a fantastic partner during my tenure in the Eva Jay Fortune Band. This dynamic “rockabilly” hollowbody delivers gritty overdrive tones, as well as meaty clean sounds that inspire Duane Eddy-esque single-note runs. (Click to myspace.com/michaelmolenda, and listen to Fortune’s “The Rarest Thing”—the melody lines are the X160 plugged directly into the console with just a hint of outboard reverb added.) But the “X” is a somewhat valuable guitar to bash about at seedy club gigs, and it’s not quite versatile enough to address some of the heavier tones required by Fortune’s current repertoire. So an affordable and bulletproof rock machine with a Bigsby has been on my wish list of late, and—lo and behold—the gang at Daisy Rock debuted its semi-hollow Retro-H De-Luxe ($639 retail/$439 street) at Winter NAMM 2007.

The new De-Luxe features a bolt-on, 243"-scale rock-maple neck with a rosewood fretboard; a basswood body with binding along its edges (cream on the sea foam green finish, and black on the ruby sparkle); 22 medium frets; Daisy Rock Vintage Mini Humbuckers; a Bigsby B-50 vibrato; an adjustable, roller-saddle bridge; Grover tuners; and dual Volume knobs, a master Tone knob, and a 3-way pickup selector. The workmanship is as flawless as that of the May ’07 GP Editors’ Pick Award winner Rock Candy Custom Special ($399 street), which suggests that for a “budget” guitar maker, Daisy Rock has really dialed in its quality control. The polished frets have lusciously smooth hot-dog ends, the neck socket is airtight, the hardware is locked down (with the exception of slightly wobbly pickup covers), and the finish is flawless. The only surprise is that, at 8.46 lbs, the De-Luxe is about a pound or so heavier than most semi-hollows we’ve tested. However, the De-Luxe fits the contours of my short-guy torso a bit more comfortably than the girthy X160, so it’s a fair trade off. I also changed out the stock D’Addario XLs—gauged .009-.042—for a .011 set, because the factory-installed strings were too light for me.

I was initially skeptical about the De-Luxe’s “manufacturer brand” mini humbuckers. But through my practice rig (an Orange Tiny Terror head and Mesa/Boogie 1x12 cab) and my gig amp (a Mesa/Boogie Stiletto and two 1x12 Boogie cabs), the De-Luxe serves up aggressive treble tones with a lively snap, as well as chunky yet articulate dual-pickup sounds that impart some X160 flavor (albeit without the X’s airiness and shimmer). With the Tone rolled off, the neck pickup is capable of jazz timbres, but the sound is too boomy for Fortune’s material, so I didn’t go there. Her songs do require a lot of sustain, feedback, and EBow lines, however, and the De-Luxe serves those needs brilliantly with singing distortion and musical feedback that’s controllable and easy to coax.

The only real problem I had was dashing into the rehearsal studio before the “big kids” spied the De-Luxe’s metallic-pink hardshell case and beat me up for carrying something so sissy-fied. (Just kidding—but, actually, the garish case’s padded handle is damn comfy.) I’ve said many times that the female-focused Daisy Rock company doesn’t just make guitars for girls, and although the De-Luxe definitely has a slim neck and body profile, it’s still a versatile and professional tool—so much so, that it has effectively retired my X160 from the ravages of club gigging.

Daisy Rock, (877) 693-2479; daisyrock.com,.