Going Solo Certainly Rocks Hard: Jack White’s Blunderbuss

by Charissa Lock

I’m not sure if many people know how epic Jack White is.  With a guilty conscious I must share that I didn’t realize how intense he was until I read his Wikipedia page, which may or may not be entirely accurate, and the fact that I’m doubtful of the credibility is further evidence of his impressive nature.   It is suggested that if you have about 5-10 minutes you should probably head to Wikipedia so you can furrow your eyebrows and outwardly shout “What?!” quite a few times.  Okay, enough about Wikipedia.  Among the incredibly bountiful projects White has gotten himself involved with – his solo career is one of them and the one I will be focusing on today.

Blunderbuss is Jack White’s debut solo album, released April 24th, 2012.  White has released and been a part of multiple projects where he’s performed on his own without any of his past band mates, but this is the first full-length creation that was written, recorded, and produced by him.  Pretty epic, right?  It’s something that I’m surprised hasn’t happened earlier, though according to White, “I’ve put off making records under my own name for a long time but these songs feel like they could only be presented under my name. These songs were written from scratch, had nothing to do with anyone or anything else but my own expression, my own colors on my own canvas.”  In that case, we’ll all forgive him and just appreciate that he finally did take that step and has created something quite fabulous.

You may have seen Jack White’s latest performance on Saturday Night Live (the one with Lindsay Lohan…yeah, now you remember).  Promoting his single “Love Interruption” a duet with Ruby Amanfu the piece included a female band, while his second single, “Sixteen Saltines,” was performed by an all male band.   This captures the feel of the album by showing the many different sides of White.

These thirteen tracks are filled with musical influences, all compiled in a unique and delicate way.  Of course, there’s a blues foundation in every song, whether severe or weak which will always keep them “Jack White” material.  The guitar solos and piano pieces are completely invigorating.  White’s exceptional mastery of the former instrument might even lend him to being compared to the greatest guitarists.  There are a handful of genres, though in most cases you have to be listening to pick up on (besides listening as background music).  The heavy drums, quick-paced vocals, distorted guitar on “Freedom 21” is a heavier, more rock style with an exceptional guitar solo.  The first moments sent me right back to Air’sSeven Stars” with the catchy-as-all-hell beat, while other songs flood me with Elton John influences (“Trash Tongue Talker”) – more rock and less glam.  There’s a dip into country with slower, melancholy moments on “Blunderbuss”  and more up-tempo twangy guitars, and Dixieland piano (“Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy”) that ironically has The Beatles written all over it (like a George Harrison vocal B-side).

There is a barrage of songs on Blunderbuss that I find compelling and downright jam-worthy.  “Sixteen Saltines” is one of them, and not only due to the fact that it reminds me of the indisputable “saltine challenge” (six saltines are needed in that as opposed to White’s sixteen), nor the fact that in the first few lyrics it sounds like White sings “She’s go stickers on her knocker,” but the heavy rock intro and continued head-mashing feel.  Then there’s “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy,” a track that continues to build until it full-circles and eases back by the end.   Though I love gritty guitar solos and bouncy piano notes, as well as quiet vocals and thoughtful lyrics, what I love even more is all of these moments put together.  Jack White makes this happen in the final track “Take Me with You When You Go,” the whole album is condensed into this song and has spectacular moments, back to back.  Then, of course is my personal favorite “I’m Shakin’” where 60’s vibes rush through an upbeat soul singing, hand clapping, Bo Diddley reference-making good time.   This is probably the most hated song by all Jack White fans, sorry about that.

Jack White has done more things in his life than most of us ever will, including getting married on the Amazon River by a shaman (“What?!”), and it’s about time for him to be the creator of thirteen respectable and commendable songs.  Listening to this album with headphones and your full attention is probably one of the best things you can do for yourself this week.  So many things happen on each track, that to catch every one is quite an experience.   White has separated from his other bands (three that I know of…) to produce something that he can call his very own, and should be proud of what he’s created.  Blunderbuss is something that should not be looked over, but added to the multitude of classic must-haves Jack White has so feverishly been working on for decades.

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