With premium build quality, attention to detail, and stripped down specs, this is a garage rocker’s dream guitar.
Cost: $2700 USD from GrezGuitars.com!
Overview & Final Score: 8.9 out of 10
Brand new from Grez Guitars, the Mendocino Junior is a LP Junior inspired take on their Mendocino model. Sporting a single WolfTone Meaner Dog Ear P90 and wood-capped volume and tone controls, there’s not much to distract from the natural tone and sound of this instrument. Made from old growth Redwood, the body weighs a feathery 5.5 pounds and has a nitro finish that feels great and will age wonderfully, with natural wear and relic’ing accumulated over time. The neck has Honduran Mahogany, jumbo nickel silver frets, and a soft V-shape down the 24.75″ scale length profile. A very snappy wrap around bridge from MojoAxe holds the strings opposite the tuners, providing simple but very effective tuning stability and touch response. As a huge Junior-style guitar lover, this Mendocino Junior checks so many boxes for me despite a relatively short spec sheet.
While you are somewhat limited by one pickup guitars in terms of onboard sounds, this guitar should really be viewed as a blank canvas. It’s very responsive, resonant, and open sounding to my ears. This means that it can very easily be shaped to be anything you need, but still sounds amazing when you plug straight into an amp and crank the volume. Punk and garage rock tones obviously pour out of this guitar, which is why I personally love it so much. But it took reverbs, delays, and choruses with ease, providing a snappy, clean signal that was great for soloing over chords or trying to write and create new melodies. If you like P90s, it won’t matter what style you play, you’ll be able to use this guitar. There’s all that mid-rich honk, some good bite when you crank the volume, it ticks all the boxes you would want from a Gibson or Heritage or Eastman. I do think it could fit into Pop, R&B, or Blues with incredible ease, as the guitar has that wonderful “full” feeling when you play it. But really, just plug into an overdrive and a tube amp and you’re going to have some of the most fun you could ever possibly have with a guitar thanks to the Mendocino Junior.
The soft V-shaped neck is smooth as butter, likely thanks to the nitro lacquer finish which I always prefer on a neck. But the jumbo nickel frets are a nice touch and feel superb up and down the neck. While it isn’t a high performance guitar, it is markedly better than most Gibson-style necks I’ve played over the 3 years I’ve been reviewing guitars. And while a Music Man may also get a 9 for playability, this is a very different 9 in that it is a very stripped down to the basics kind of set up. Fret edges are smooth, action is great, but there’s no flashy features like locking tuners or stainless steel frets. Instead, the tuning stability and comfort is really derived from the build quality, the solid hardware choices, and the simplicity of the Mendocino Junior’s design.
Finish & Construction: 9
This is one of the lightest, most comfortable guitars I have ever had the opportunity to play. I don’t really know much about Redwood, though Barry Grzebik does an amazing job informing us all in this video below. Whatever magic and physical properties it possesses, the old growth Redwood in this Mendocino Junior is gorgeous, light as a feather, and resonant as hell. The best way to describe the construction is that this is a resonant plank of wood with a magnet strapped on the front. And I mean that as a true compliment. There’s real attention to the little design details, like the wooden control knobs, the pattern of the pickguard, and the beautiful natural wood grain. It all comes together for a very complete feeling instrument. I also want to give a shout out to the simplicity of this guitar and how much that often helps in the upkeep and longevity department. There isn’t much to go wrong and if something does, I’m sure anyone could fix it relatively easily. I find that very important in an instrument I’m going to be investing in and relying on.
While it may be easy to look at such a simple guitar and say “$2700 is far too much”, things don’t exist in a vacuum. Gibson is charging far more for their own re-issue of a Les Paul Junior that won’t have nearly as much character or individuality as this Grez Guitar. The thing for me is that it feels like a very special instrument, and I connected with it in a very short time. So while the price is a bit high compared to what I usually review, this would be a guitar that I could buy and then never need another one, so to speak. Compared to other high end LP Junior builds, I think I much prefer this one. So for that alone, the Mendocino Junior deserves high praise. Factor in the shear quality of the instrument and the story behind the old growth Redwood (Grez Guitars are actively helping to re-plant trees), and you’ve got something that is offering lots of surplus value in my humble opinion.
Good for: Punk Rock, Garage Rock, Classic Rock, Players With Back Problems, Fans Of Lightweight Guitars, Fans Of Stripped Down/Simple Gear