The genesis of this new signature model is thoroughly documented in this month’s cover story on Brad Paisley, where the guitarist also details all of the elements he wanted for a Telecaster that’s designed to have broad appeal for players who need a guitar with excellent tone and playability, as well as an affordable price. Resplendent in its silver sparkle finish, paisley pickguard, and swaths of exposed wood on the upper and lower parts of the body (the “worn” part if you will), there’s more than meets the eye here thanks to a body made from lightweight paulownia wood with a top and back of harder spruce. Our review sample came in at just 6.18 lbs, making it feel very nimble and sound nicely resonant. For reference, paulownia is native to Southeast Asia, and it’s the fastest growing tree in the world. Its use here (which Paisley requested) basically gives the player a guitar with boutique-Tele weight but without the boutique price. Score one for Brad!
Bolted in a super tight neck pocket, the maple-on-maple neck features an ultra-thin, silky finish, and a soft V carve (“Enhanced V” in Fender terms), that is inspired by the neck shape of Paisley’s prized ’52 Tele. From here on, we find a classic string-through bridge with three compensated brass saddles, a complement of pickups that are patterned on the stock units of a ’63 rosewood-neck Tele also owned by Paisley, and a standard set of Volume and Tone controls with a 3-way selector.
Thanks to a great setup and light strings, the Road Worn plays beautifully, and sounds musically in-tune throughout the reaches of the fingerboard. The medium-jumbo frets are well shaped and finished, string buzz was minimal, and the 9.5”-radius riding atop the generous—but not overly thick—neck creates a righteous surface for bending, plucking, rock chording, speedy flatpicking, etc. Played through a Fender Deluxe Reverb, a ’69 Marshall PA20 head driving a Bogner 1x12 cab with a Celestion Greenback, and a selection of OD pedals, the Road Worn delivered balanced bridge-pickup tones that were bright and gutsy in all the right ways. Singing sustain came easy with gain added from pedals, and the snappy attack and low-end girth make it a gas to play. As much as it was tempting to just plant on the bridge setting and dial the Tone control for creamier textures as needed, the neck pickup is totally viable here, too. Whatever Fender did in formulating this “Twisted Tele” single-coil, there’s plenty of complexity and dimension, along with a modest output that invites fat, gritty blues tones though a low-wattage amp with sweating output tubes; or warm, jazzy sounds when using a dead clean setting. It all underscores the versatility that’s inherent in a good Tele, which the Road Worn absolutely exemplifies.
Carrying a sub $1,200 price tag, this guitar has to be one of the best bargains in Fender’s extensive Telecaster line. It looks great, it’s fun to play, and it sounds killer. Bottom line: If there’s one tone fiend who knows what he wants from a Tele, it’s Brad Paisley, and this co-design nails all the essential elements and earns an Editors’ Pick Award in the process.
ROAD WORN BRAD PAISLEY TELECASTER
PRICE $1,199 /street, gig-bag included
NUT WIDTH 1.650"
NECK Maple with Enhanced V shape
FRETBOARD Maple, 25.5" scale, 9.5" radius
FRETS 21 medium jumbo
TUNERS Vintage style
BODY Paulownia core with spruce top and back
BRIDGE 3-saddle, string-through with compensated brass saddles
PICKUPS “Twisted” Tele single-coil (neck), Custom Brad Paisley Vintage Style single-coil (bridge)
CONTROLS Volume, Tone, 3-way switch
FACTORY STRINGS Fender USA 250L 9-42
WEIGHT 6.18 lbs
KUDOS A well-sorted Tele that combines classic and new design elements for excellent sound and playing feel.