Blunderbuss: the vulnerable masterpiece that debuts Jack White’s singer-guitarist personality at its fullest. It’s hard to listen to the album without thinking about it in the context of his live performances.
Jack White has been making a reputation for himself for over fifteen years as a blues-guitarist-gone-Appalachian-folk-punk rocker. It all started with The White Stripes, where the band released hit after popular hit among dozens of inside jokes over the course of their six studio albums. One has to wonder why the Catholic boy-turned-rockstar didn’t follow his own rhythm by releasing another album to make a perfect seven.
However, White’s business acumen has always been sharp. First was his marketing of the red, white, and black color scheme and founding of Third Man Records in 2001. Then the musician added more clout to his resumé by forming new projects like The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather. He also produced others’ albums like Loretta Lynn’s Van Lear Rose and appeared on the soundtracks of Cold Mountain and Quantum Of Solace. White’s insatiable desire to collaborate and expand has many similarities to a large corporation, contrary to what the small boutique-like tone of his guitar suggests.
Jack White in the opening scene of the rockumentary “It Might Get Loud”:
This past year Jack White decided to move on and form his own solo project, which in many ways continues the legacy of The White Stripes. Instead of the former color scheme, Jack colored almost everything a blue, white, and black. The musical stylings of his debut record Blunderbuss are classic yet modern, and very much founded in the Appalachian-folk, gospel, and blues structures of White Stripes albums De Stijl, White Blood Cells, and Get Behind Me Satan. It seems like White has made a clear move away from the punk-rock influence in songs like “Fell in Love with a Girl,” which have been replaced by the almost-hip-hop vocal phrasing of Blunderbuss’ new song “Freedom At 21.” “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy” has a certain gospel spell that accompanies White’s rolling words, with phrases like, “So I get into the game, but always keep it the same…” and “… I can’t sit still, because I know that I will.” It seems as if he is being very plain about his personality. The big-band approach might likely be impressive to some as it shows his mastery over many talented musicians and is also indicative of White’s vulnerability on stage, something that he hasn’t allowed us to see yet. The way the album ends is very spiritual, retreating from the initial blast of the first three songs and back to a few thoughtful refrains. It’s hard to tell at this point where White will venture next–he is quite unpredictable.
“We don’t have a setlist,” White says in one of his “American Express Unstaged” videos, referring to his work and his band, which consists of either several women or several men. It’s clear that the live performance is of extreme importance to White and he is marketing the spontaneity at shows which creates a very fiery live performance, as was the case in Vancouver at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre performance on May 27, 2012. He spares nothing to leave you impressed.
It’s hard to listen to Blunderbuss without wondering what Jack White will do next. It seems as if he is building an empire, where all his bandmates are color-coordinated and his roadies are all wearing top hats. He may never run for President, but he still has enormous amounts of influence in the kingdom of rock ‘n’ roll.