The resonator guitar was developed in the 1920s, around the same time Hawaiian music became hugely on the mainland. Because of their unique tonal qualities, volume projection, and suitability for slide playing, resonator guitars became closely tied to Hawaiian music. Because of that, some early resonator guitars often featured Hawaiian and Island-themed decorations, so palm trees and hula girls have always been part of the reso vibe.
Branded with the "Duolian" logo, Dobro rolled out the Hula Blues in 1987. This 12-fret, single-cone resonator prominently features stenciled palm trees and hula girl scene on the back. Historically, Dobro used the Duolian name for lower-priced resonators, so to keep costs low, prewar Duolians are mostly single-cone designs with wood bodies. Because Duolians were cheaper, they were adopted by blues players who could afford them and grew to prefer the warm, growling tone of a wood-body resonator. Borrowing from that tradition, the Hula Blues has a wood body, Maple biscuit bridge design, two f-holes, and a "sieve" cover plate.
This 1990 Hula Blues looks sharp in its Black and Yellow stencil finish. It is in nice condition for its age, but it does show some play wear in various places, like around the picking area. The edges of the headstock are fairly worn from some kind of hanger stand. There is also a small cosmetic crack by one of the coverplate screws. The current setup is impressively low for a restonator, and the yellow stenciling is still sharp and bright. It includes its original hardshell case.
Sound-wise, this 1990 Duolian Hula Blues produces authentic resonator growl and wood-body bark when you dig in. Its tone is sweeter than an all-metal resonator—the bass thumps, the treble bites, and the mid-range jumps across the room. A great fit for blues fingerpicking, but this Duolian will add a new tonal color to your palette. Sometimes, you just need that resonator sound.
One note—true to many no-frills Dobros of the '20s and '30s, the Hula Blues has a flat fingerboard. It's a cool authentic feel, and it can be a smooth feel for slide. But for some players, it may take some getting used to.