It’s no secret Jack White is a talented musician. Some have even called him a musical genius. When it comes to his second solo release, it’s easy to see why people are quick to call him such. Refusing to be put in a box White pulls out different sounds, moods, and instruments for this LP. He has something for his rock fans, while trying to expose them to the somber side of country and folk. While it makes for a solid album it has the tendency to leave the listener with mixed feelings.
For his first solo effort, it was clear he wanted to separate this work from anything else he’d done in the past. He mixed in elements of his beloved rock and blues, but threw in some country and folk for good measure. While some of that is found here, it seems White is aiming for a country record. Most of the songs here are inspired by the genre from the music to the lyrics. This is first heard on “Temporary Ground,” which has a somber violin and a sweet acoustic guitar to provide a country feel with a bit of folk tossed in.
This influence can also be found on the tracks “Just One Drink,” “Alone in my Home,” and “Entitlement,” which has such a country twang it makes you think you put on a Willie Nelson record. White even adds a Southern drawl to his vocals. While the songs are good, they’re not for everyone. You need to be in a certain mood to really get into most of these tracks, while others need to grow on you. It’s these songs that may turn off most listeners. He at least sounds genuine on the songs and could probably pull off a country album easily.
Though there are some mellow tracks that may not appeal to everyone, there are some amazing songs that remind you why Jack White is a revered musician. “Lazaretto” has to be the best song on the LP. The weird, disjointed guitar riff gives it a funky rhythm that instantly gets under your skin. Here you can find more of a blues and rock sound as a raw Jack White tears away at this guitar like it’s on fire. The way he plays and the way he says “My veins are blue and connected/every single bone in my brain is electric” makes him sound hungry for the music. Mid-way through the tempo slows down while the guitar wails as if someone is getting murder. It’s a great track that shows the sheer power of the guitar player.
“Would You Fight for My Love” is a haunting experience. The pounding drums, crooning vocals, and piano playing that spells damnation makes it sound like you’re wandering through a haunted house. It instantly grabs your attention. The way the guitar riff slices through the track before the chorus is so powerful it’ll give you chills. As the track goes on, everything gets more intense while the wailing vocals get creepier and creepier. No one does instrumentals like Jack White and this is shown on “High Ball Stepper.” Screeching guitars, playful piano, gritty feedback ridden riffs all drenched in blues and rock is the basis of this track. There are so many sounds and tempos going on here it makes sure the listener is never bored. The final riff shatters the rest of the song before the end puts the final nail in the coffin.
White takes listeners to church on “Three Women” with the hard music, passionate vocals, and the chorus of “Lordy Lord.” As he’s singing about his different women, it sounds like he’s preaching especially when the organ comes in. It seems to be inspired by his past relationships and it doesn’t paint a pretty picture. “That Black Bat Licorice” is filled with arrogance and attitude in the best possible way. It’s a full on blues song with unchained riffs and vocals White spits out like venom. Everything from his fast paced singing to the electricity running throughout the track gives it a hint of danger that you can’t help but find sexy.
Overall, the album gets 8/10. There’s no doubt Jack White is talented; this album is proof. It’s a solid record, but some of the slower songs that are obviously influenced by country and folk can instantly turn people off. They aren’t bad tracks, but they aren’t heavy hitting and memorable like the other songs found here. If anything these are songs that need to grow on the listener. It’s understandable that White wants to avoid being labeled, but sometimes it has the tendency to alienate listeners.