Street Sounds: Jack White shows all his stripes

Detroit musician Jack White is a bit of a barroom Renaissance man who mixes his passions (music historian, instrument collector, Library of Congress board member, analog enthusiast) with being a rock star.

It all comes out on Lazaretto, his second solo album – an all-the-way-down mix of raunched-up blues, garage rock, instrumentals and saloon style westerns.

While it’s similar in spirit to Blunderbuss (his last album), Lazaretto is more abstract and free form with a richer band sound and wilder ideas.  It’s rock, country, blues, garage – whatever.  It all fits.

A remarkable seven- song run starts the album. Everything’s there, including some spooky Ennio Morricone flavoured exploration (Would You Fight for My Love) and one of White’s most menacing riffs since The White Stripes (Lazaretto). Add some Appalachian saloon rock and nasty instrumental action (High Ball Stepper), where White riffs like Neil Young on meth, scrolling through the noise while the band rages.

Lazaretto showcases White’s shape shifting abilities with stirring honky tonk laments (Alone In My Home, Entitlement) along with his patented fractured blues workouts. Being a rocker at heart, White and band lay down a Velvet Underground- style stomp on Just One Drink – this is what White would sound like if he played bars.

White fuses his main areas of interest (blues, rock, country) on Lazaretto along with plenty of other nuances – mainly mayhem, kitsch and general eccentricity.  He manages to be interesting, raw and expressive, mixing kitchen sink ideas with his take on traditional music forms. White’s intensity is the cohesion that brings his vision together.

Dean Gordon-Hall in a Vernon-based musician who reviews the latest releases in The Morning Star every Friday.


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