ALL ON HIS JACK
By Matthew Cheadle
April 24th saw the release of Jack White’s first solo record.
Fifteen years since forming The White Stripes, ten studio albums later with three different bands, not to mention numerous guest appearances, production credits and running his own label, the garage-blues-rock-indie maverick finally gets to have a go on his own.
As one would expect, “Blunderbuss” is a melting pot of Americana, successfully blending the sounds of Memphis, Nashville, Detroit and even some LA sixties folk, to create a feast of rootsy rock n roll glued together by Jack’s familiarly quirky and often feverish vocals.
On the single, “Love Interruption”, White shows a savage intensity towards his emotions; “I want love to…Stick a knife inside me and twist it all around, I want love to grab my fingers gently, slam them in a door way.” Such feelings spotlight the fact that he is solo both in his personal as well as musical life after last year’s divorce from wife Karen Elson and the dissolution of The White Stripes. However, White, as always remains enigmatic. When he sings “I won’t let love disrupt, corrupt or interrupt me” is he turning his back or simply being philosophical?
Being enigmatic, of course, is a salient part of White’s make up. A fake name and a phony back-story collide with his desire to seek and deliver an honesty in his music. So whilst we see Jack White devoid of band-mates and standing all alone for the first time (studio musicians aside), singing of loss and anguish, which is he; the love-torn troubadour or an evil rock genius venting his torment the only way he knows how?
The music itself offers no definitive answer, swerving from the blazing power chords of “Sixteen Saltines” with its spiky vocals, to the warm soulful country of “Blunderbuss” reminiscent of the late, great Gram Parsons with its fiddles and pedal steel guitar supporting romantic, narrative lyrics.
Elsewhere, White regales us with a cover of Little Willie John’s “I’m Shakin’”, complete with female backing oohs and aahs and angular guitar solo; a kind of White Stripes meets Black Keys.
The late sixties inspired white-boy funk of “Trash Tongue Talker” with its Leon Russell-esque arrangement, and the honky-tonk swing of “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy” are just two further examples of how at home White is with roots music as well as garage rock.
In many ways, “Blunderbuss” covers all of the American music bases, but never feels incongruous or unconnected. The creativity and originality of both the instrumentation and the vocals lend it that unique Jack White personality which is simultaneously self-aware yet candid, closed-off yet flamboyant.
An enigma indeed.