And on the eighth day, God created Jack White. As we recently learned from the (finally!) long and detailed profile of White in the Easter edition of the New York Times Magazine, Jack White doesn’t own a cell phone. His studio at Third Man Records in Nashville runs on tape and he records only in analog. The employees are all required to wear certain colors and if not, they’re fined. We discover that his first ever concert was Bob Dylan (expect anything else?) He is also the youngest of 10 children and the only one, it seems, who left Michigan. My favorite detail of the article is that he installed microphones on his roof. Just so he can lie in bed with his kids and listen to the rain.
He’s been building his own guitars and he owns all his own master recordings. And for this tour he’s bringing two bands with him. They accompanied him on SNL, one all female and one all male. Neither of which is allowed to hear the other. For freshness.
Maybe one of the most precise men in music – at least in our age – Jack White is sharp. He dresses sharp and sexy and his music is exact. There certainly will be a discussion surrounding his upcoming release, Blunderbuss, out on Third Man/XL Recordings/Columbia on April 24th. But none of it will complain. None of it will revolve around claims against White and why he always sounds the same. Since The White Stripes officially broke up in February of last year, we’ve seen collaborations with Conan and Colbert, the Insane Clown Posse, and don’t forget he recently released a song by balloon. His creativity seems to be never ending and always interesting. Which is exactly what he brought us on Blunderbuss.
This record has many things going for it. The biggest might be it’s element of surprise. There is surprise in its’ instrumentation and its’ sounds. While White’s songwriting and skill on the guitar are well known, there’s almost no need to address them, his passion for the unusual is reflected in his musicianship and composition. And even though it is technically his first solo record, he brought along his friends: acoustic instruments, the Fender Rhodes, violins, and a myriad of layered vocalists on verses. Oh, and the piano. Used as detail in hooks and then featured in solos, the piano seems to be an overarching theme in this record – that is, if Jack White isn’t already his own theme.
Blunderbuss [below], the title track, is homespun with piano, slide guitar, and violins. The chorus is a mouthful. It’s romantic and resourceful, just like White himself. The opening and closing tracks, Missing Pieces and Take Me With You When You Go, are developed as if they have movements. But when you see that they’re three and a half and four minutes, respectively, you go back and listen again. And then a third time.
I’m Shakin’ is an even three minute delight. Rockabilly at its finest…until his quintessential layered raw and wild (and almost backwards sounding) guitar solo shows up. White commands your memory of who exactly you’re listening to. His signature sounds are instantly identifiable. We know it’s Jack White we’re listening to. We just have to guess which door he’s behind.
The style of this record pushes past anything he’s done before. And it should make you listen with a new ear. It almost seems like he’s never pleased with his work despite his appetite for perfection. It’s a treat for all of us, not only because he never stops trying but because it always seems like he has the best idea. New ideas are contagious. And so is Jack White.