Jack White – Blunderbuss

This is a record that was bound to happen. With the dissolution of indie giants The White Stripes, and the members of Jack White’s other bands finding their focus elsewhere, it wasn’t going to be too long before he became bored sitting behind the producers desk at Third Man Records. Blunderbuss may not be White’s first foray into solo work – he has appeared solo on a few film soundtracks – but it is the first definitive statement he’s made on his own, free of the agendas that come with collaboration.

Jack is backed by a different line up of musicians on nearly every track as he leads you through a gamut of moods. He is wistful and wondrous on On and On and On and the title track; rife with paranoid obsession on Sixteen Saltines; and genuinely funny on the innocent I Guess I Should Go To Sleep. However, despite the changing back line and shifting moods, the album never loses any cohesion and White’s personality acts as a dominant and consistent unifier.

Location has always had a huge impact on White’s sound. Originally from America’s garage rock capital, Detroit, Jack has lived in Nashville, Tennessee for quite a few years now and Blunderbuss is soaked with the kind of goodness only found south of the Mason-Dixon Line. There are obvious allusions to decades gone, such as the ivory key driven, rock n’ roll strut of Trash Tongue Talker, but the influence of the South isn’t always so blunt. Mandolins, fiddles and pedal steels all flourish and decorate the record, never overstaying their welcome, providing an authentic atmosphere to the records folk-leaning tunes, while Love Interruption is elevated above standard country crooning as a Johnny and June style duet. The album’s only cover song, Little Willie John’s I’m Shakin’, is littered with soulful doo-wop vocals but anchored firmly in the present by one of the albums few indulgences in Jack’s trademark pitch shifting guitar histrionics.

If one complaint could be levelled at this record it is that it doesn’t pack the wild electricity of older White records such as White Blood Cells and Consolers of the Lonely. Not to say the album doesn’t make up for it with wonderful set pieces like the Zeppelinesque finale of Take Me With You When You Go or the drawn out piano runs of Weep Themselves to Sleep, but it does sound a mite conservative when compared to the rest of his back catalogue; you find yourself wishing for him to unleash a little more.

This small factor is easily covered by the strength of the overall song writing, which is simple to the ear, yet exceedingly inventive; Jack never seems out of his depth with the albums twists and turns, nor does he sound like he is just rehashing the familiar. A record that can both shake your foundations and lull you gently, Blunderbuss is perfect for previous fans of Jack White’s work and those who are just discovering him.