REVIEW: Fender Jim Root Telecaster

When you think Telecaster, a variety of styles pop up: country twang, dirty classic rock, jangly indie. But it’s certainly not the kind of guitar you think of for punishing metal mayhem. The Jim Root Telecaster changes that perception. While there have been Telecasters with humbuckers for about 40 years now, they’ve typically featured more conservative humbucker models with relatively low output. Not so on this baby. The Jim Root Telecaster is built for face-tearing metal and little else.

Jim Root is one of two guitarists in both Slipknot and Stone Sour. For his Fender signature model, Root has designed a modern variation on the classic Telecaster without loading it up with graphics of goat skulls, dripping blood packs or any other such metal brutality. Even though that’d be kinda cool … Instead his signature model is simple, restrained, and roadworthy, and while it has its own identity, it’s not so overdone as to make you look like you’re playing in a Slipknot tribute band the second you strap it on.

The body is mahogany, an unusual choice for a Telecaster as it is known for a thicker low end than most Telecaster players desire. The review model was finished in flat white with a matte polyurethane finish. A flat black model is also available.

String meets body via a black 6-saddle string-through hardtail bridge. The pickups are active EMGs: a 60 in the neck and an 81 in the bridge. The 81 is the standard, go-to pickup of metal monsters everywhere, and the 60 is favoured by the likes of Mr James Hetfield for his rare solo moments, due to its smooth, singing tone with a lot of clarity and cut. Battery access for the pickups is through a compartment in the back of the guitar, which is shared by the single volume pot and 3-way pickup selector switch. You have to unscrew the cover plate to change the battery: a separate latched compartment would have been nice.

The maple neck has a modern ‘C’ profile with a satin polyurethane finish. There are 22 medium jumbo frets with a flat-ish 12” radius on the rosewood fretboard. This radius eliminates the danger of bent notes choking out on the frets, while keeping the fretboard curve comfortable. The fret finishing is quite good. Running my hand down the neck, I didn’t feel any rough edges or pointy bits.

The headstock features black hardware and the big chunky Telecaster logo instead of the more traditional smaller one. A decal of Root’s signature is on the back of the headstock. Black Fender/Schaller deluxe cast/sealed locking tuners are a nice touch.

I plugged the Jim Root Telecaster into my Marshall DSL50 set to ‘kill,’ with scooped midrange on the ‘Ultra’ channel, for maximum brutality. With the assistance of the EMG 81 I was able to pull out screaming pinch harmonics and fat sustain with ease, and chunky metal riffs were irresistible. Moving up to the widdly end of the fretboard, higher notes didn’t lose any of the bite and output of the lower notes, making this a lead player’s axe as well as a rhythm guitarist’s buddy. In the middle pickup setting, a trebly edge was added, emphasising pick attack and making for some nice semi-clean sounds, good for strumming or playing arpeggios for a verse before rocking the bridge pickup for a big chorus. The neck pickup sounded full and round, with a high end sparkle not often heard in neck pickups. It’s great for atmospheric, sustained notes around the 12th fret, and has nice articulation for mega-fast speed picking. I’m not sure if this is the same pickup used by Brendon Small for his leads on the Dethklok stuff, but it certainly reminds me of that kinda tone.

The combination of the neck profile, fret size and radius, and the fret finishing make this guitar very playable, and the restrained yet confident visual design keep it from looking too much like a signature guitar. You can comfortably play this on stage without people thinking you’re a Slipknot stalker. The sounds are great, and the workmanship is flawless.