JACK WHITE – Blunderbuss (Third Man)

Possibly the most eagerly awaited album of this year has to be Jack White’s first solo release, if you discount the fact that he has been producing records for over a dozen years with The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and Dead Weather. This is his first album as a leader to feature a backing band, and he has decided to go with a mostly female lineup, although he has performed gigs where this band plays the first half and a male version plays the second. ‘Missing Pieces’ starts proceedings promisingly, sounding as if the Stripes had never broken up, and containing an evocative lyric that compares the emotional give and take of a relationship with its physical equivalent of losing part of yourself every time it goes wrong, until you are just a torso writhing on the floor. White’s idiosyncratic vocal and squalling guitar are both in evidence, and the addition of piano adds an extra dimension to the song. ‘Sixteen Saltines’ is the track that everyone has been talking about, with its in your face riff and impassioned vocal it is a real return to the form of early Stripes albums. ‘Freedom At 21’ is s scathing attack on a female acquaintance – his recently divorced wife Karen Elston, possibly, although they must be on reasonable terms as she sings backing vocals on here. The title track has some nice steel guitar which gives it a country flavour, while ‘Hypocritical Kiss’ and ‘Weep Themselves To Sleep’ are both enhanced by some superb piano-work from Brooke Waggoner. ‘I’m Shakin’’ is one of those classic rockers which seem to flow effortlessly from his pen, while ‘Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy’ and ‘I Guess I Should Go To Sleep’ are both country-tinged rockers, once again featuring some great piano from Waggoner. ‘On And On And On’ is the first major departure from what we have come to expect from White, starting with its ethereal electric piano intro and jazzy drumming to White’s languid vocal and sensual feel to the whole song. It’s different, but is something that I would certainly like to hear more of. ‘Take Me With You When You Go’ closes the album with a jazz/country crossover (echoes of Dave Brubeck’s ‘Take Five’ in the intro, and female harmony vocals crooning the title), and White doesn’t even make a vocal appearance until halfway through the song, but when he does it transforms into a powerhouse of a rocker, and is a great way to sign off his debut solo effort. There have been people who were a bit apprehensive about this record, especially White Stripes fans who can’t forgive him for breaking up the band, but Jack White has moved on and has proved that he can continue to make great records on his own or with a group. In time I think ‘Blunderbuss’ will be compared favourably to the best of the Stripes’ output, and it certainly deserves to be up there, so give it a try.

Sixteen Saltines