Street Sounds: A throwback to another era

Jack White's latest musical outing once again proves the artist's versatility.

If he is not quite ready to take the funky mantle of the Hardest Working Man in Show Business from James Brown’s corpse, maybe Jack White could be the first Renaissance Man of Raunch. White does a lot: he instigated the influential and much needed second coming of garage rock with the White Stripes, has been producer (Loretta Lynn), collaborator (too many to mention, but especially with the Raconteurs) and just straight band member (drummer, The Dead Weather).  Add to this list solo artist, with Blunderbuss as his first recording under his own name.

The cover art reflects the music, the birds and dark images are Southern Gothic and White’s songs are haunting, raw and beautiful. The drive and bite of the White Stripes is here on Sixteen Saltines and Weep Themselves to Sleep – the attack on the riffs and White’s high-edged vocal are unmistakable in any setting. The aura from his former band is distilled slightly but not much.

The band on Blunderbuss is a closely connected unit that digs in and sweats the music out. There’s passion and lots of expression flowing easy within the songs. No big, obvious singles are sticking out to run the songs off the rails as this is an album of ideas and raw material. But to give a nod in that direction, White knows nasty groovy riffs that rock and there’s Sixteen Saltines, the blasting Freedom at 21 and grunge boogie on I’m Shakin.

The big surprise on Blunderbuss is the honky tonk keyboards that hook to White’s blues-raunch guitar.  This sound provides an original effect that brings an Old West saloon piano to a country-blues groove, amped up and bristling with acoustic overdrive.

The sorrowful sound of early country music is also included here on Hip(Eponymous) Poor Boy and White and his band shake it all up with swagger on tracks like Hypocritical Kiss. Is this how a rock band sounded in Virginia City in 1870? Or Barkerville in 1865?  It goes places.

Just to make sure all the early bases of blues, pop, rock and country aren’t the only sounds filtered through his fingers, White and his musicians give a punchy nod to Dave Brubeck on his Take Me With You When You Go. Blunderbuss is firm and serious because White jumps all over rock, blues and country with clarity and abandon, making sense and entertainment with a preacher’s persona.  He’s a throwback that never was, so he fits in times where music wears thin.