Jack White's first solo CD reflects the many musical efforts that preceded it: There's the snarly electric guitar he first introduced with the stripped-down White Stripes, the country sound he cultivated in his current hometown in Nashville and in his work with the legendary Loretta Lynn, and the rock energy he whipped up with the Raconteurs and the Dead Weather.
"Blunderbuss" shows how far the 36-year-old musician-singer-songwriter-producer has come since the White Stripes first sizzled ears in 1999. The sound here is richer and more layered, with piano or keyboard on every track and even some fiddles and clarinet. White harmonizes with himself and stretches his voice to ever higher octaves, at times evoking Robert Plant. He explores various genres and musical stylings, but sticks to familiar themes of betrayal, love and loneliness.
"Love Interruption," though musically gentle, stabs with its lyrics. "I want love to grab my fingers gently, slam them in a doorway and put my face into the ground," White sings atop backup singer Ruby Amanfu's haunting voice. "I want love to murder my own mother and take her off to somewhere like hell or up above."
A cappella, they sing: "I want love to walk right up and bite me, grab a hold of me and fight me, leave me on the ground."
White split from model-musician Karen Elson, with whom he has two children, last summer. Still, Elson sings backup on several "Blunderbuss" tracks (and White produced and released her debut album last year).
White's not all blue. The bouncy "Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy" features happy piano and mandolin, while "On and On and On" is an ethereal musing on life's direction.
"Blunderbuss" isn't hard rock, but the blues-infused evolution of its author.
CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: The only song White didn't write on "Blunderbuss," ''I'm Shakin'," may be its most ear-catching and toe-tapping. If you aren't snapping your fingers and bobbing your head to the groovy, retro, honkytonk sound of this Rudy Toombs blues jam, you better see a doctor.