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POP and ROCK

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Jack White / Blunderbuss (Third Man/Sony)

Jack White has been involved in numerous musical projects over the years, serving as frontman for the White Stripes, co-leader of the Raconteurs and stepping to the background as drummer in the Dead Weather, but he's finally decided to release a solo album, and the result is a showcase of everything that makes him tick.

White Stripes fans expecting an update of that duo's stripped-down blues rock will be disappointed: this is White's stylistic trip through his musical inspirations with the main instrument of choice usually the piano. He hasn't completely abandoned his love of good old guitar rock, though, as the heavy blast of Sixteen Saltines, the out-of-left field solo on the dramatic Weep Themselves to Sleep and the fuzzed-out cover of Little Willie John's I'm Shakin' proves, but for the most part White's electric guitar is just another in a sea of instrumentation that includes electric piano, fiddle, stand-up bass, pedal steel, acoustic guitar and mandolin over the course of 13 tracks that touch on R&B, soul, Americana and classic rock 'n' roll.

White's lyrical focus is women, relationships and an unnamed enemy. His recent divorce evidently weighs heavily on his mind, although he has been denying this in interviews and his ex-wife, Karen Elson, is listed as a backup vocalist on three songs. The girl on the funky Freedom 21 is described as having "no responsibility, no guilt, no morals," but that won't stop him from looking for love as he admits later on the smouldering Love Interruption to wanting to the kind of love that would, "murder my own mother and take her off to somewhere like hell or up above." And yes, that is a clarinet you hear in the background as White harmonizes with vocalist Ruby Amanfu.

It's not flawless -- some tracks coast on style over substance and mood over melody -- but it never fails to be interesting and is something White can feel good about putting his name on. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö

-- Rob Williams

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 28, 2012 G4

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