Third Man Records
In 2008 Jack White starred in a documentary about three generations of rock guitarists with Jimmy Page and U2’s David (The Edge) Evans, as they explored the roots of classic riffs in It Might Get Loud. White’s inclusion in the film as a Generation X guitar representative established his position in the guitar rock pantheon, however some hard-core blues aficionados may balk at the suggestion that he should be associated with the blues. However, his recent album, Blunderbuss, hit a bulls-eye with this writer. It’s an emotional roller coaster that runs the gamut in musical exploration.
The first song is “Missing Pieces,” with White singing, “I was in the shower, so I could not tell my nose was bleeding…,” while he alternated between playing the electric guitar and Rhodes piano. “Sixteen Saltines” is a staccato excursion into psychedelic dissonance, emerging into “Freedom at 21,” an anthem about turning 21. “Love Interruption” is a theological journey into the multifaceted complexion of morality, using a simple arrangement with White on acoustic guitar and vocals, with Emily Bowland on clarinet, Brooke Waggoner on piano, and Ruby Amanfu for backup vocals, singing, “I want love to change my friends to enemies…” “Blunderbuss” is the title song and employs Fats Kaplin on pedal steel guitar, Olivia Jean on drums, Bryn Davies on upright bass, along with Waggoner and Amanfu in their previous positions.
“Hypocritical Kiss” is a delicious excursion into the same territory that Bob Dylan explored in the mid 1960s from its poetic imagery to the ethereal voice that is punctuated by hammering keyboards. The entire album is as keyboard dominated as it is guitar based, allowing White to explore more complex musical configurations that the simplicity of the White Stripes wouldn’t allow. Cuts like “Weep Themselves to Sleep” provide ample opportunity for keyboard/guitar interplay. “I’m Shakin’” is one of the bluesier cuts, reaching back to an R&B bebop sound with the guitar dominating, as White sings –
“Samson was a mighty good man, strongest in his day
Then along came Delilah and clipped his wig.”
“Trash Tongue Talker” is a plaintiff whine with a two-stepping Zydeco beat punctuated by an interplay between piano and drum. “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy” is an infectious honky-tonk melody that continues the foot-tapping beat with a driving tempo. “I Guess I Should Go To Sleep” is another opportunity for White to demonstrate his multi-instrumentalist genius for musical synchrony as he moves from one instrument to another, including drums. Melodically, the song is a takeoff of Huddie Ledbetter’s (Lead Belly) 1933 folk-blues roots song “Goodnight Irene.” “On and On and On” is a vocally rich blend of White with background singers Ruby Amenfu, Karen Elson, and Laura Matula. White’s infatuation with female performers become clear after a brief perusal of his roster, which reverses the normal male-dominant configurations. “Take Me With You When You Go” is another vocal blend of harmonies creating a bed of sound for fiddles to complete with keyboards, until it all explodes into an orgasmic stew of sound that leaves one satisfied. Amen.
Bob Gersztyn is a contributing editor at BluesWax.
About the Author: