It has been quite a season of breaking up recently for Jack White. After fourteen years with the White Stripes’ DIY, ambiguous, rock duo, he and Meg White called it quits on the band, and months later, his marriage to supermodel, Karen Elson ended with the two throwing a divorce party. Since that June, White seems to have been doing a lot of thinking, and just as much writing.
With his first solo album, Jack White’s heart appears an open house for all to hear, and the hurt, love, and experiences all take shape to form Blunderbuss. The former White Stripes frontman had gone on to form other successful bands such as The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather, where he was clearly the heart and brainchild behind each, and most recently, collaborated with Danger Mouse and Norah Jones for the Spaghetti Western soundtrack-to-a-nonexistent-film, Rome.
It’s not surprising then, that Blunderbuss is a compilation of all his past sounds and influences, as well as a foray into the world of classic country-western reminiscent of his now-Tennessee home. He’s clearly a character whose passion for the classics and the good old days of rock shine through every project he’s involved in, and this album is no different, with it’s old fashioned charm.
One thing that immediately stands out is the hurt and pain scrawled in the lyrics and sounds of Blunderbuss. The pain (which evidently was caused mostly by women in his life) comes out in tunes like first track “Missing Pieces,” where he sings “I woke up and my hands were gone. Yeah, I looked down and my legs were long gone. I felt for her with my shoulder, but there was nobody there.” The theme of being dismembered by love continues throughout the album, but maybe never as clearly as on “Freedom of 21″ where he sings “Cut off the bottoms of my feet, made me walk on salt. Take me down to the police, charge me with assault. Smile on her face, she does what she wants to me.”
The crazy thing with all this “female-induced” suffering, is that White surrounds himself with almost all ladies on background vocals and accompanying musicians. Bassist Bryn Davies makes several appearances on bass, Brooke Waggoner plays Wurlitzer, Rhodes, and standard piano, and his backing vocalists Ruby Amanfu, Lauren Matula, and (ex-wife) Karen Elson give a bluesy doo-wop feel to tracks like “I’m Shakin,’” where White compares his lady to Delilah to his Samson, as well as “Take Me With You When You Go.”
Content to rock out in the sixties and seventies, you can hear influences all over those years, as the artist-made-for-the-wrong-decade laments this generation and being born too late. “Sixteen Saltines” sounds reminiscent of his time with the Stripes with its edgy rock riff and catchy “who’s jealous of who” tagline. He then bounces from the straightforward, country crooning title track, right into boogie-woogie jangling on “Trash Talking Tongue.”
It’s a delight to hear White out of the standard rock element, and it becomes more evident as the album goes on, that he has been the main brains and soul behind each and every project he’s a part of. Check out the much more mature-sounding, acoustic “Love Interruption,” where White laments “I won’t let love disrupt, corrupt, or interrupt me anymore,” or “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy,” which finds our hero sounding like a lead character in an old-fashioned, Western, piano bar scene. Overall, it’s a new direction, melded with all the old ones, proving Jack White is, and will always be, one of the premiere rockers of our generation.
Try This Track: “I’m Shakin’”