Bass Guitar Magazine, 2005
by Bryan L.B. Dean
I have always found being a lefty bassist is a uniquely painful experience. Imagine drooling over the axe of your dreams, only to learn that no lefty models are available. Or that if a lefty can be had, it means a six-month wait and a ridiculous upcharge. Some of the world’s greatest southpaws-Godsmack’s Robbie Merrill, Doug Pinnick of King’s X, Chris Chew of the North Mississippi All Stars, even the venerable Paul McCartney – have experienced the agony of not being right.
“The neck is the smoothest I’ve ever laid hands on.”
Fortunately, some manufacturers understand our pain – like Lakland, whose terrific Deluxe 5 has been my main weapon since 1999. So when I heard about the lefty Joe Osborn Signature 4-string, I jumped at the chance to check it out.
The bass is named after L.A. session legend Osborn and modeled after his late-Fifties prototype Fender Jazz Bass, which appeared on 200 Top 40 hits-include 20 number one hits-during the Sixties and Seventies. Appropriately, the bass glowed with old-school beauty. The flawless, three-tone sunburst finish hinted at beautiful things, but the neck – cured with Tung oil to approximate the feel of an instrument that ruled thousands of sessions and gigs-is the smoothest I’ve ever laid hands on. At nine pounds, the Osborn’s alder body is a tad heavier than I’m used to, but the bass is extremely well-balanced.
Once I plugged in, I wouldn’t have cared if it weighed 20 pounds. The Osborn’s Lindy Fralin pickups, surprisingly quiet for single-coils, sang sweetly. The thin neck was easy to get around, and the “stacked-knob” controls – a defining characteristic of early-Sixties J-Basses – were easy to use, too (although I must admit that I kept hoping a master volume control would magically appear). The standard-gauge Lakland roundwounds, strong through the body, seemed to help every note emerge clearly.
When I plugged into my Eden WT-800/Aguilar GS410 4×10 cab/Dunlop M-80 Bass DI+ setup and opened both pickup volumes all the way, the Osborn easily cut through my hard-rock trio’s twin-guitar mayhem; a little less neck pickup helped it thrive in the mix. When it was time for finger-funk, I dimed both pickups and sat in the pocket forever. If you’re a slap-happy player, I must say that in the lower and middle registers, the tones are juicy and authoritative, but the top gets a bit crispy.
The Sixties vibe of the Joe Osborn, after all, perfectly complements my Lakland Deluxe 5’s beefier, more modern sound. Fans of vintage-bass tone should take a serious look at this instrument; the Osborn bass may even force “modernists” to re-evaluate their definition of hip.
Us lefties don’t have the luxury of mixing and matching like our backward righty counterparts, so it’s imperative that we get something of true value. The $3,600 Osborn might strike some as pricey, but it’ll be in your arsenal for the rest of your lifetime. Consider it.