It was with a sense of both expectation and concern I pressed play on Jack White’s first solo record, Blunderbuss, this morning – expectation because I am a big fan of both his past noises and his approach to music, but concern because rarely when I have expectations for a record do they live up to them.
Having managed to avoid much of the hype before the release of the album I had only heard one thing about it, which was that it sounded more like someone trying to copy musicians of old than make an original record.
If I’m honest I can see partially why someone might have this view, however I think that is to undersell the record.
While its clear Jack White is a man well versed in the history of blues, rock ‘n’ roll, country and many other genres, and he uses a lot of these sounds and influences on Blunderbuss, it is also very clearly presented with his own take on the styles and sounds.
Closer in feel to The White Stripes work than his many other projects (in that it veers around tone and genre pretty extensively), but with the broadened palette of having whatever extra instruments and band members Jack desires, the album starts with the sound of a Rhodes Piano and goes on to take in a mix of both White’s distinct vocal and guitar sounds alongside new elements not previously heard to create a great set of sounds.
In the hands of many other musicians a set of songs like this may well come off as simply them re-treading many a well trodden path, but Jack White’s unique delivery combined with the surprisingly slick production work makes for a record that both celebrates the past while being something of its own.
For me the highlights are the more electric guitar driven tracks, particularly Sixteen Saltines, Freedom at 21 and I’m Shakin’, but there really isn’t a weak track on the whole album.
While I don’t think it will win Jack White many new fans, if you don’t like what he’s done before you’re unlikely to like this, for me it brings all the diverse elements that have made White’s music so unique in the past onto one disc that shows, despite all the various forays into other bands, side-projects and label and production work, there is still a lot of life left in his own original musical side that first came to the fore in The White Stripes and certainly proves (if it needed proving any further) that Jack White is not simply a garage rock revivalist, but a man of many musical seasons.
Note: I wanted to put up the video of Sixteen Saltines, but apparently I’m not allowed to watch it in this country… but that’s a rant for another time.