By James Calemine
Jack White’s photo on the CD cover of Blunderbuss with a vulture on his shoulder speaks volumes. Fair warning ladies. White produced and recorded his first solo album, Blunderbuss, in Nashville, where he’s been a resident since 2005. Recently, White said this about Blunderbuss:
“It was an album I couldn’t have released until now. I’ve put off making records under my own name for a long time but these songs feel like they could be presented under my own 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.“
Besides the White Stripes, White’s music with Loretta Lynn, Wanda Jackson, The Dead Weather and The Raconteurs rank him as a formidable musician. Blunderbuss does not disappoint. White employs a talented band of Nashville female musicians that include Carla Azar (drums), Brooke Waggoner (keyboards), Bryn Davies (bass) and Ruby Amanfu (vocals) on this album that covers R&B, country, rock, and a indigo-colored psychedelia in one streamlined sound. A cohesive thread ties these 13 songs together.
The organ-laced, R&B-sounding “Missing Pieces” opens Blunderbuss with a ode to a wicked lover who cares for nothing but herself. “Sixteen Saltines” reeks of a wide-open rock & roll scent. White’s slicing guitar licks on Blunderbuss prove economical and emotive.
In “Freedom At 21” Jack sings: “Cut off the bottoms of my feet/Make me walk on salt/Take me down to the police/Charge me with assault/A smile on her face/She does what she wants to me/She don’t care what kind of wounds she’s inflicted on me/She don’t care what color bruises that she’s leavin’ on me.” He’s in the trenches with the wenches where they all have knives stashed under their pillows. In “Love Interruption” the songwriter tires of giving his heart to receive nothing and reveals: “I won’t let love disrupt, corrupt or interrupt me.” A classic original, indeed…
The title track, a country ballad, stands as one of White’s finest songs where he sums it up to a “A romantic bust, a blundered son, an explosive blunderbuss”–there’s real romance within these notes. In “Hypocritical Kiss” White spares no venom when he spits: “My temper got the best of me/And when I said what I mean I know every single thing that I said was true/And I know that you’re mad at me/But if you’re thinking like that/I think you’ll see that you’re mad at you too.”
Jack’s message to guys who play nice are the one’s who watch the “villains play the victim” in “Weep Themselves To Sleep”. White’s cover of Little Willie John’s “I’m Shakin’” sounds like a rendition Tom Waits might deliver. The swinging “Trash Tongue Talker” captures the essence of a drunken, mean, talentless woman who needs a scapegoat to make her feel better about herself instead of playing nice. The Beatle-esque, acoustic “Poor Boy” transitions well into “I Guess I Should Go To Sleep”. “On And On And On” emits an oceanic sonic landscape where heartbreak lingers on the surface.
The last track, “Take Me With You When You Go”, comes as close to an out-and-out love song on this album as you’ll get. A timeless quality resonates through these songs. Blunderbuss serves as another sharp recording in Jack White’s musical arsenal.