Grade: 9.20 (A)
In the past decade, I'm having trouble thinking of someone that everyone can agree has as hip a persona (or cool) as Jack White. He does it all. He wins Grammys, acclaim and allegiance of fans with the now sadly defunct White Stripes. He goes off and starts successful super-groups like The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather. He's got a sturdy history of producing (Loretta Lynn, Wanda Jackson and the embarrassing Insane Clown Posse one off come to mind first) and collaborating (well, with just about anyone) with a wide array of artists. He acts. He pops up on television interviews when you least expect. If Hollywood Squares still had new stars taking seats, I wouldn't be surprised to see Jack White in the Upper Left Hand corner. For people considering themselves the generation after the millennium, has their been a bigger rock star than Jack White? Is he so hip that it's time to start thinking of him as un-hip? I'm sure there are naysayers that have fallen off the Jack White wagon. But as Jack White accomplishes another first in releasing his first solo LP, I can safely say there's no reason to jump ship. "Blunderbuss" turns out to be a joyful listen anyway you try to spin it.
As he goes solo for the first time, Jack White has decided to get out of his comfort zone but still has the knack of delivering goods to fans of his previous bands.The studio is littered with musicians playing upright bass, fiddles, pedal steel guitars, a Rhodes piano and female vocalists who accompany White around unknown corners of songs. Because these things are at his disposal, "Blunderbuss" comes off as roller coaster of an album. Sure you can tell it's Jack White but you never know for sure what is coming down the track next. There's a whole lot of swagger on the nasty "Trash Lounge Talker" and "Hypocritical Kiss". There's atmospheric pieces like the thoughtful "On And On And On". There's meditative simple R & B songs like on the winning first single "Love Interruption". White tickles the Rhodes piano with great success on the opener "Missing Pisces" and the nursery like rhyme of "Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy". He covers Little Willie John's hit "I'm Shakin' and even throws in a little of his own flair replacing "noyvous" for "nervous". And if you miss the White Stripes or Dead Weather's heavy handed guitar stomps, White provides you with the burst of energy that is "Sixteen Saltines".
"Blunderbuss" has the kick to make you want to listen to it repeatedly while knowing when to sidestep when you least expect it to. I love the way the Rhodes piano sounds on this thing. It sounds like White's new toy and he is picking it up very well. In a decade where a rock star is considered someone that is way past their prime and poised for that BIG comeback, thank goodness we still have Jack White showing he still has the chops to be what a current rock star in his prime should be. "Blunderbuss" is a fantastic solo album from a guy who already had nothing to prove. If you find White passe because he's been all over the map for a decade now, you're missing out on album I'll gladly enjoy the rest of 2012.
JHO Picks: Sixteen Saltines, Freedom At 21, Love Interruption, Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy, On And On And On