Jack White is no flash in the pan. Years and years from now when music writers will look back on the history of contemporary music of the late nineties and the ensuing decade or two, White ought to feature in their writings as a one of a kind musician–actually, not just as a singular musician but a singular musician’s musician.
Anyone who has followed White’s career from 1990 or thereabouts will have been struck by a couple of things—his remarkably prolific ability to produce works of music (he has either on his own, or as part of his former band, The White Stripes, or with other bands such as Raconteurs and The Dead Weather recorded around a dozen albums); his steadfast commitment to play stripped down classic blues based rock but yet not even once sound predictable or boring; and his huge dedication to curate music, both by young fledgling musicians and old, classic legends.
That last bit is demonstrated by the work that White does as a producer. He’s a great producer, by the way. Besides many of his own albums—either as part of bands or on his own—White’s Third Man records has produced many young bands’ work but also greats such as Loretta Lynn, Jerry Lee Lewis and Wanda Jackson, often bringing them out from retirement to cut new albums like last year’s new albums by Jackson and Lewis. He’s played with Alicia Keys as well as with a host of new musicians.
But it is White’s own work that stands out and makes him what I think no music critic can ever ignore. Each one of his albums, whether it is his The White Stripes ones with Meg White or with other members of The Raconteurs or The Dead Weather is worth collecting and listening to… often. So it is with the 13-track solo album from White, Blunderbuss. What makes White’s music so compelling is, as I said, his being a stickler for sticking to tradition. He is an extremely gifted guitarist who uses little or no digital help (most of his equipment is old-fashioned and analog); he plays his music satisfyingly loud and with nary a hint of the namby-pamby that many of today’s rockers seem to find it hip to embrace; and he is never predictable or same-sounding.
Blunderbuss is White’s first truly solo work. For the most part of his itinerant career, he has chosen to be part of bands, albeit bands that have mostly been driven by him and, therefore, their records have usually been oozing with all of what he believes in sounding like. On Blunderbuss, White delves into vintage, traditional sounds—ranging from a cover of a Little Willie John song to tracks that are steeped in country and soul and even funk. Why, he’s even brought in British psychedelic rock sounds of the sixties in some tracks. As one critic called it, on Blunderbuss, White has brought back the “pre-computer, post-hippie” sound. If you’re a British early prog-rock fan (think Traffic, Led Zep and so on), this album will quickly get glued to your head.
Blunderbuss is a studio album, produced, arranged, written and played by Jack White and a team of great musicians. It is like most albums that have come out of White’s projects, an impeccably recorded product but I am told his live concerts too are great. White is touring now and I just missed watching him in concert by a day but that’s another story. The point to note is that he’s been touring in part with another band that is creating ripples—Alabama Shakes, the traditionalist garage-soul band that White has feted (and you would have read about if you come to this column regularly!) since they made their appearance. I missed their concert but I have, of course, done the next best thing watched every video of theirs—White’s and Alabama Shakes’–that I could get my browser to go to. And it’s been pure bliss every time. But yes, on my to-do list there’s a Jack White concert written up right on top. He’s one of those in today’s world of rock music to keep watching.