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The yearly NAMM Show in LA allows guitar builders to launch a host of new models – Yet for the Fender Custom Shop team, it is more a case of releasing a run of highly spec’d Limited Edition models, that pay homage to the classic guitars from their 50’s and 60’s golden era  – With current prices in excess of the cost of a nice German motor, few of us have access to an original 1955 Strat, but thankfully the guys at the Fender Custom Shop facility pay tribute to guitars from the golden era – Coupled with a few modern features that are designed to enhance the playing performance, this Strat captures the mystical magic of a good old ‘un – So let me introduce you to a Fender Custom Shop NAMM Limited Edition 55 Journeyman Relic Strat, with a cool ‘aged sherwood green’ finish – I have to admit that the pics do not capture the true colour and character of this cool finish – It looks far better when viewed in the flesh  – Nostalgia will always ensure we’ll find something of interest in an old original model, but your hands, ears and indeed your wallet, will appreciate all the attributes that this Custom Shop Strat possesses

The yearly NAMM Show in LA allows guitar builders to launch a host of new models – Yet for the Fender Custom Shop team, it is more a case of releasing a run of highly spec’d Limited Edition models,  from their 50’s and 60’s golden era  – With current prices in excess of the cost of a nice German motor, few of us have access to an original 1955 Strat, but thankfully the guys at the Fender Custom Shop facility pay tribute to guitars from the golden era – Coupled with a few modern features that are designed to enhance the playing performance, this Strat captures the mystical magic of a good old ‘un – So let me introduce you to a Fender Custom Shop NAMM Limited Edition 55 Journeyman Relic Strat, with an ‘aged sherwood green’ finish  – Nostalgia will always ensure we’ll find something of interest in an old original model, but your hands, ears and indeed your wallet, will appreciate all the attributes that this Custom Shop Strat possesses – Interesting when you look at a 54 Strat, alongside a 55 Strat and already Leo had tinkered with a few changes – You still find a set of authentic pick-up covers, with the rounded edges that are unique to this era, but the trem back plate and control knobs have now been changed to a format that he stayed with for many years – Like wise the serial number is now stamped on the Limited Edition 4 bolt neck plate

Aged vibe :- I fully appreciate that not all guitar players buy into the seriously aged vibe of many  Custom Shop Strats, so with that in mind, a Journeyman nitro finish takes more of a  lightly aged approach, that some might say is more authentic – This ‘aged sherwood green’ finish possesses a faded worn character  – You’ll find no shortage of lacquer checking , yet overall it receives far less dings and dints, with very little in the way of a worn finish that reveals the ash body – Aged, but not abused, might be a fair remark, therefore the Journeyman finish is a far more subtle approach to finding a Strat with some played in character – Hence you can  buy it and play it, without having to give it the kids gloves treatment, then getting upset regarding any nicks and grazes that it will inevitably acquire – It is generally accepted that a thin base coat and finish allows the guitar to ‘breathe’ so as to maximise the guitars natural vibrant character and this is a big plus factor of the aged approach – On this Strat you can still view hints of the grain pattern of the ash body as the finish is that thin, just like a good old ‘un

That chunky ’54’ U neck profile :-  Is it big compared to other Strats ? – Yes – Is it to big to handle ? – No – Does it enrich the tone ?- Probably a Yes for this one, as it will certainly help – Even with a  set of 10’s you can make that big lump of wood vibrate and that will be further increased with a set of 11’s – The more vibration you can get out of the quarter sawn maple neck and the select lightweight ash body, then the bigger the tone – I certainly think if you play a big neck with a set of vintage frets and fingerboard radius, coupled with a highish action, then yes you’ll find it far tougher to play and certainly less forgiving  – Yet thanks to a set of 6105 narrow/jumbo frets, a 9.5″ fingerboard radius, plus set up with a well balanced fluid action, then it will respond to a light touch, hence it is far more easy to handle – I find you quickly get used to it, so before to long you don’t notice the size of the neck, but you will appreciate that big tone – It instantly feels ‘played in’ from day one, with the medium tint thin nitro finish having been fully cut back for that dirty worn vibe – In short it feels familiar and user friendly – It has similar dimensions as the U shaped profile you’ll find on many Custom Shop Nocasters (if you are familiar with that profile) so it starts of big at .910″ at the top nut end then gently fattens out to 1.01″ at the 12th fret

Tonal character :- I start of any evaluation unplugged and it only takes a few open chords to appreciate the vibrant acoustic voice that you can hear on this Strat – This is a good place to start and as I often say, ‘it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that ring’  – So now let’s plug it in and evaluate a set of vintage hand wound ’55’ pick-ups that produce all that magical mojo from the golden era  – Spanky  – lush, rich, warm, melodic and succulent – lively with crisp highs that glisten, but not thin – big  piano like lows that are clear and rounded – transparent mids  – These are just a few attributes that I can bestow upon such a Strat – As with any good Strat how you play it, plus how the amp is set up, will determine exactly what you hear – Yet overall this Strat is loaded with a musical character, with no shortage of soul, expression and emotion – It has enough bite to be angry when pushed, especially when the volume pot is on 10, yet equally it sounds musical, with an angelic flute like character, when you roll off the volume pot just enough – All 5 switch setting possess a well balanced set of voices as you move from neck through to the bridge pick-up – You’ll discover a chilled out and succulent voice that is velvet smooth from the neck pick-up, to more bite, twang and attack, from the bridge pick-up – The Knopfler esq out of phase voices are so infectious – Rich, smooth and clear with plenty of body and quack – More full and rounded from the neck/middle combination and more crisp from the bridge/middle combination

On a clean amp setting it still possesses plenty of character and warmth to inspire – Yet equally only a touch of gain on the amp is required to make it sing, as it starts  to show its true colours – From subtle blues overdriven amp settings, to classic rock territory with an increased level of gain, this Strat is on home turf – Leave the Strat’s volume pot on 10 for more edge, bite and snap, yet always musical, but for your base tone I suggest you set up camp with the Strat rolled off to around 6 or 7 – It will still retain the guitars full tonal character, but now a touch softer, more chilled out as it cleans it self up – Then take it back towards 10 when you require that additional boost – Hence you and the guitar totally control the amp – As  a result, all the emotion, soul, passion and expression you require is at your finger tips – Funky chord chops, power riffs, walking bass lines with shuffle chords, blues riffs, melodic moody single lines, to scorching solos and this Strat is both exciting and musical – Some Strats tend to lean towards a chilled out soft voice, others towards bright and crisp – This Strat possesses enough power to drive the amp but not at the expense of warmth and a vocal like tonal character, especially when you use the volume pot as a key part of your playing – Utilise this and your Strat is far from being one dimensional  – It has a big tone that truly inspires

Full spec and details for this Fender Custom Shop NAMM Limited Edition 55 Journeyman Relic Strat with an ‘aged sherwood green’ nitro finish :-

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Every guitar in stock at Guitars4You has been personally selected, inspected and approved by me, with particular attention paid to the set-up and playing performance – Every sale, phone call, mail order transaction or e-mail is handled my me – Mark Hopkin, the owner, Managing Director, cleaner and coffee maker (Jo, my wife helps with the coffee) – A 35 year journey has fuelled my knowledge, experience, love, devotion and passion for exceptionally fine guitars – This reflects in every aspect of our business.

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