Fender JMJ Road Worn Mustang

Recorded direct into Focusrite Saffire 6 interface into MacBook Pro using GarageBand.
Clip 1: Fingerstyle - Tone at 80 percent.
Clip 2: Pickstyle - Tone at 50 percent.

Justin Meldal-Johnsen has plenty of basses at his disposal. As a producer and in-demand bassist for everyone from Beck to Macy Gray, Nine Inch Nails, Ken Andrews, Pink, and countless others, he’d have to. But over the years he’s found his 30"-scale 1966 Fender Mustang to be an ideal tool for much of his session work. While JMJ has found the compact classic to match up well for dense mixes (especially in modern music), his Mustang’s tight, bright timbre suits a variety of genres. Recently, the bass veteran collaborated with Fender to release a signature instrument that aims to replicate his beloved ’66’s sonic and aesthetic characteristics at a price point well below what you’d find on the vintage market.

Spirit of ’66
The JMJ’s body is constructed of alder and comes in just one finish option, daphne-blue nitro lacquer. An aged-looking pearloid pickguard complements the "road-worn" finish, and bolted to the body is a C-shaped neck capped with a 9.5"-radius rosewood fretboard.

Simplicity has always been a key component of the Mustang’s electronics, and the JMJ preserves this by incorporating a passive circuit with one volume and one tone control. Seymour Duncan designed the instrument’s split single-coil with familiar rounded ends, and voiced it using Meldal-Johnsen’s vintage Mustang as a benchmark.

I loved how the mids punched through the mix with
power and authority.

Other features include open-gear Hipshot tuners, a vintage-style string-through-body bridge, and a synthetic-bone nut. Fender adds even more old-school vibe to the signature bass by stringing it up with a fresh set of flatwounds.

Wooo ’Tang!
In terms of looks, Fender and Meldal-Johnsen nailed it. The gorgeous color combination and timeless style should make it at home in the hands of bassists who play in anything from a surf band to a new-wave group or modern-Americana ensemble. The relic job isn’t obnoxious, but instead conveys a gently aged look.

The JMJ’s neck feels substantial yet still super comfortable in my large-ish hands. Conversely, a fellow bassist friend who’s quite smaller in stature found the neck ideal for her diminutive mitts, too. The satin neck finish felt smooth against my thumb and allowed effortless shifting and fretboard navigation.

 

Ratings

Pros:
Vintage tones and looks—without the vintage price.

Cons:
No option to string through the bridge.

Tones:

Playability:

Build/Design:

Value:

Street:
$999

Fender JMJ Road Worn Mustang
fender.com

Balance was the only issue I had with the test bass. It tended to have an uncharacteristically noticeable headstock-dive while I was seated, but I was able to mitigate this by resting my right forearm on the body. The shorter scale made horizontal playing manageable when using a strap.

Opting for a clean rig to hear the JMJ’s sonic characteristics, I plugged into a Bergantino B|Ampwired to two HD112 cabinets for a classic-rock/R&B gig at a medium-sized bar. With all EQ settings dialed flat, the JMJ had tonal parallels to P-style sounds, but with a tighter low-end and cutting highs. I loved how the mids punched through the mix with power and authority. Meanwhile, manipulating the tone control helped produce slicing treble at higher settings or warm thumps when dialed down. The flatwound strings certainly assisted the JMJ in achieving its strong vintage voice, which was ideal for old-school bass lines like those in the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” or for expanded jams on the Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post.”

Those who feel short-scale basses have a floppy feel will likely appreciate the JMJ’s string-through bridge, as it gives the strings a familiar tension and increased response. It wouldbe nice to have the option of stringing through the bridge, but it’s a minor concern that doesn’t take away from the JMJ’s playability. The JMJ was super fun to play overall and projected a supportive voice that easily found its place amongst keyboard, guitars, and drums.

The Verdict
Though the company has a history of successful signature instruments, the JMJ Road Worn Mustang is, hands-down, one of the best signature Fenders I’ve ever had my hands on. It looks great, has a versatile vintage voice, and, despite our test bass’ balance issue, is a blast to play. This is a great instrument for players looking for Fender tone and looks in a compact package. If you’re shopping for a short-scale bass—or any bass for that matter—the JMJ is worth putting on your must-try list.

Watch the Review Demo: