White branches out into solo material with innovation typical of his career

Jack H. Evans

He’s the god of garage rock. The prodigal son of punk blues. The man behind such modern rock legends as The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, and the Dead Weather. The genius who recorded groundbreaking rock classics like Elephant , Get behind Me Satan , Consolers of the Lonely , and Horehound . He owns Third Man Records and has participated in high-profile collaborations with Alicia Keys and Danger Mouse. To say that the first solo release in Jack White’s illustrious music career is a big deal – that’d be an understatement. Blunderbuss not only marks the first solo recording in White’s career, it also signifies a remarkable utilization of musical diversity. In truth, the only song that would really fit the “garage rock” description that many fans may have expected is the fantastic second single, “Sixteen Saltines.” That’s not to say that the songs don’t have the sort of distorted guitars and such that White coined in his work with the now-disbanded White Stripes. “Missing Pieces,” “Freedom at 21,” “Weep Themselves to Sleep,” and his cover of Little Willie John’s “I’m Shakin’” have the kind of fuzzy, cutting solos that have become White’s guitar calling card. Nevertheless, much of the rest of Blunderbuss explores new territory. Many songs driven more by piano and vocals and lean more toward blues, folk, and even country, such as the title track, “Weep Themselves to Sleep,” “I’m Shakin’” and “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy.” “Blunderbuss” is driven by acoustic guitar and fiddle, and the cool, dark piano line in “Weep Themselves to Sleep” is one of the album’s standout moments. Even though White’s voice might sound more natural to fans of his previous work in songs like “Sixteen Saltines” and “Freedom at 21,” which are geared more towards his previous output, it sounds absolutely fitting in tunes like “Love Interruption” and “On and On and On” that wouldn’t fit in with the rest of his catalogue as well. White’s vocal delivery is still distinctive. It’s quick, it’s catchy, it’s odd, it’s rangy, and it’s simply Jack White. White’s lyrics also are distinctively quirky. Lyrics like “Cut off the bottoms of my feet, make me walk through salt/Take me down to the police, charge me with assault/A smile on her face, she does what she wants to me” (from “Freedom at 21”) and “I want love to grab my fingers gently, slam them in a doorway, put my face into the ground” (from “Love Interruption”) often betray the songs’ seemingly simple structures and happy melodies but fit in like only Jack White can make them. Although Blunderbuss does begin to get a bit dull near the end, White’s musical innovation and alluring vocal delivery keep them at least somewhat entertaining. Ultimately, Blunderbuss might have been a long time coming, but it is well worth the wait. We can only hope that more stellar solo albums like this exist in Jack White’s future. Overall rating: 8.5/10