Jack White has had a heck of a career so far, when you think about it. He’s been in The White Stripes, the Raconteurs and the Dead Weather, all great bands. He’s been responsible for the production of Loretta Lynn‘s incredible Van Lear Rose album, and collaborated with plenty of other wonderful artists. He’s done a Bond theme. And now he’s only gone and made a great first solo album.
With the White Stripes, he established a definite ‘sound’, based on blues rhythms and centred on the guitar and drum line-up of the group. It started off very minimalist in approach, getting gradually more expansive as they progressed, but still hardly ending up sounding like a Brian Wilson production or anything like that.
In the Raconteurs and Dead Weather, you could still hear echoes of that in the pace and rhythm, but with added influences coming in to expand upon it, and that has continued through his collaborations and into this solo album. He’s said that he decided to finally release something of his own because he couldn’t imagine working on it with anyone else, and in many ways, you can hear why in the music.
Blunderbuss sounds like the culmination of everything he has done so far, taking all of those styles and influences and distilling them into something that may well be the most perfect release of his career. Interestingly, while his guitar is still very prevalent in the mix, what dominates this album are the pianos, keyboards and organs, and in a great, ‘Billy Preston‘ kind of way that adds a real richness to what is still a fairly sparse musical backdrop.
Also thrown into the mix are the backing vocals of his ex-wife Karen Elson, who most of the lyrics seem to be about. Which seems like an odd situation for what comes across as a break-up album, but then again at least he’s not pretending that she’s his sister or anything weird like that. White is ever one to throw you off his scent when you think that you know what’s going on, and there’s a few moments like that on here.
Songs like singles Love Interruption and Sixteen Saltines are immediately recognisable as being ‘Jack White songs’ but he throws a few curveballs in with tracks like Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy and a wild and unrestrained cover of I’m Shakin’. Weep Themselves To Sleep is a definite highlight, as is the unusually exotic On And On And On, but it’s hard to single out individual tracks in what is a universally excellent record. Here’s to many, many more.