Category: Jack White

Album review: Jack White's 'Blunderbuss'

6a00d8341c630a53ef015435e01b6b970c-600wi
The first line of “Blunderbuss,” the debut solo album by former White Stripes singer-guitarist Jack White, arrives with a lyrical punch in the face: “I was in the shower, so I could not tell my nose was bleeding,” he sings. After such a greeting, one can’t help but wonder about the journey ahead. How will the 36-year-old fare over the next 13 songs when he’s already drawn his own blood? 

Bodily concerns aside, White is a wonderfully creative historian who over the last 15 years has built an expanding empire — and a few distinctive bands — as a means to shine a light on American music. With the Stripes, he and drummer Meg White channeled blues riffs through DIY punk rock energy; as part of the four-man Raconteurs, he helps generate heavy power pop; and with the Dead Weather, he drums as Kills vocalist Alison Mosshart moans the blues. 

He’s also done production work for, among others, Loretta Lynn and Wanda Jackson, and he runs a record label and store called Third Man. White’s a renaissance man to be sure, but he’s also a purist of sorts who fancies basic rock structures and tunings, and harbors a general disinterest in music-tech advances, artificial sounds or remixes. 

On “Blunderbuss,” the Detroit-born, Nashville-based White focuses on the pre-computer, post-hippie era of music, circa 1970-75, a style mastered by the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Mott the Hoople, the Who and, most obviously, the Faces, all of whom started off in the world of aggressive British Invasion rock but stretched out with bigger, heavier sounds as they matured. 

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Stevie Wonder, Neil Young, Jack White top Outside Lands SF lineup

Jack White will play the 2012 Outside Lands festival in San Francisco
It can be hard to remember that there are festivals besides the one going on in Indio this week, but a few hundred miles to the north, the Outside Lands festival in San Francisco has just announced that Stevie Wonder, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Metallica and Jack White will top this year’s three-day lineup.

The Foo Fighters, Beck, Skrillex, Justice, Norah Jones, Grandaddy, Big Boi, fun. and Alabama Shakes also are among more than 60 acts confirmed for the fifth Outside Lands fest, which will run Aug. 10-12 in Golden Gate Park.

Others on the bill include Sigur Ros, Bloc Party, Die Antwoord, Fitz and the Tantrums, the Kills, Regina Spektor, Andrew Bird, Mstrkrft, Dr. Dog, Trampled by Turtles, the Be Good Tanyas and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. The full lineup is available at www.sfoutsidelands.com.

Tickets go on sale April 19 at noon. A portion of ticket proceeds benefit San Francisco’s Recreation and Parks Department.

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Jack White's single 'Freedom at 21' released by helium balloon

-- Randy Lewis

Photo: Jack White performs in Tulsa, Okla., in March on his solo tour. Credit: Jo McCaughey.

Jack White's single 'Freedom at 21' released via helium balloon

Jack White balloon launch in Nashville 1
Look! Up in the sky -- it’s … a new Jack White record? Yes, White chose April 1 to release a limited-edition single by helium balloon from his Third Man Records label headquarters in Nashville.

The track is “Freedom at 21” from White's forthcoming debut solo album, “Blunderbuss,” due April 21. White and colleagues at Third Man filled 1,000 blue ballons approximately two feet in diameter with helium, attached flexi-discs and released them into the sky.

Jack White balloon launch in Nashville 2

The stunt was described as “an experiment exploring nontraditional forms of record distribution and a way to get records in the hands of people who don't visit record shops.”

White’s reps quickly pointed out that the balloons were made of biodegradable latex and were attached to the singles with natural twine, to ease concerns of eco-minded fans.

People who find the discs after the balloons burst or return to Earth are encouraged to report where and when they were found and to submit photos, so that White and the Third Man staff can document their travels by way of informational postcards also attached to the discs.

The typical recovery rate on similar balloon launches, according to Third Man, is around 10%, indicating that perhaps as few as 100 copies of the record will reach human hands.

An evolving map on Third Man’s website showed two reported discoveries so far in Flintville, Tenn., about 100 miles southeast of Nashville, and another in Huntsville, Ala., about 110 miles to the south. Here's some video from the launch:

 

White has consistently cooked up unconventional recording, release and distribution campaigns since opening Third Man in 2009. He temporarily opened a Third Man pop-up store in downtown L.A. in 2009 when his band Dead Weather came through town on tour.

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-- Randy Lewis

Top photo: Third Man Records staffers prepare helium balloons for Jack White's record launch. Credit: Jo McCaughey / Third Man Records.

Center photo: Jack White inflating one of 1,000 balloons carrying flexi-disc copies of his new single. Credit: Jo McCaughey / Third Man Records.

Jack White on 'SNL': The yin and yang of a rock star

Jack White on Saturday Night Live

Well, that was a lot to digest, Jack White's two-song performance as musical guest on "Saturday Night Live."

If it wasn't his stunning black-and-white suit, it was the all-female six-piece band that backed him on "Love Interruption," the first song that he played, so tight that you hope and pray that this will be his touring band (and that he'll start a post-White Stripes duo project with Autolux drummer Carla Azar, whose phenomenal kit work was something to behold).

The performance illustrated why White is a man among boys in the world of rock music, assured in his own voice, in his entire aesthetic, dedicated to creating rock 'n' roll with (beautiful) guitars, bass, drum and whatever else strikes his fancy. 

And if it wasn't that first song, an urgent love ditty, it was the follow-up/shut-up explosion, "Sixteen Saltines," a classic White rocker with a monster riff, booming drum-and-organ call-and-response, a floorful of guitar effects pedals, a weird psychedelic bridge and the kind of rock urgency that in 2012 few if any others can deliver. The song featured an entirely different band, with instrumentation including violin and mandolin -- though they were easily buried beneath White's guitar tantrum.

Both songs are taken from his forthcoming solo album "Blunderbuss," which comes out April 24 through his Third Man Records imprint.

Watch White's "Love Interruption" performance:

Watch "Sixteen Saltines":

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-- Randall Roberts

Photo: Jack White. Credit: Hulu / NBC

Jack White debuts 'Love Interruption' from upcoming solo album

Jack White debuts new song,

On Monday afternoon, Jack White posted "Love Interruption," a new song (posted after the jump) from his forthcoming solo debut, "Blunderbuss," which is out April 24 -- but not to be confused, mind you, with the faux film/music festival of the same name mentioned in an episode of "Portlandia."

"Love Interruption," which opens with some strumming and mellow woodwind touches, is a striking first song that shows off White's gift for tension, but without the full-throttle force of his work in the White Stripes or his latest stormy project with Alison Mosshart, the Dead Weather. If anything, "Love Interruption" sounds like what his other band the Raconteurs might make while brewing morning coffee, the regrets of the previous night leaving a bitter aftertaste.

The lyrics are plenty violent, delivered by White and a female singer who twists her shaky voice around such lines as "I want love to stick a knife inside me... walk right up and bite me... murder my own mother." So, with cheery lines like that, maybe don't expect this song to be playing over the pivotal scene in a swoony rom-com anytime soon.

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Holly Williams sings 'Blue Is My Heart': exclusive video

Holly WilliamsYou'd think there was more than enough inherent pressure on musicians who took part in the album “The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams,” for which each participant was asked to complete a song left unfinished by the country music legend when he died in 1953. But one of the singers and songwriters chosen to be on the album brought along the added weight of family history.

That’s Holly Williams, the daughter of Hank Williams Jr. and granddaughter of the Williams family patriarch. When Bob Dylan, who helped spearhead the songs to completion, invited Williams to be involved, she was immediately drawn to a fragment of a song titled “Blue Is My Heart,” for which her celebrated forebear had written just eight lines of lyrics.

“When I read through them, I was super-excited to do them,” Williams said in an interview for the in-depth feature story on the project that appears in Sunday's Arts & Books section. “‘Blue Is My Heart’ is the first one that really stuck with me, the one that spoke to me the most. I wasn’t going through a bad breakup at the time or anything, but I could relate.”

Whereas some of the other participants -- including Jack White, Norah Jones, Sheryl Crow, Jakob Dylan and Lucinda Williams (who isn’t related to Hank) -- got complete sets of lyrics for which they needed to add the music that Hank Williams never got around to writing, Holly Williams had to fill out the lyrics as well as come up with a melody.

“I wrote two more verses and a bridge,” said Williams, who has put out two albums of her own and is readying her third for an anticipated spring release. “I made a rule that I wanted to make it so people couldn’t tell when my part came in. To finish one of his songs not only musically, but lyrically, and to get that beautiful, simple language was a lot. But it came very quickly. With my songwriting, the long ones don’t do very well. My favorite ones are the ones I write in 10 or 15 minutes. And this felt very apparent to me that it was one of those.”

Below is a video of Williams giving a solo acoustic performance of her across-the-decades collaboration with her grandfather. On the album, which will be released Tuesday, her father harmonizes on the verses with her.

“We just called him and he knew the [original] lyric,” she said. “We went into a studio in Nashville and did it very quickly. It’s just me on acoustic guitar, Vince Gill on acoustic and a drummer sitting in a circle around one microphone, the way Hank would have done it. To have my dad sing on it too, it was great.”

Beyond her track for the “Lost Notebooks” album, Williams said, she’s helping to revamp Hank Sr.’s website, and the new, improved edition is expected to go online this week in conjunction with the album’s release.

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Bob Dylan's all-star album of 'lost' Hank Williams songs due Oct. 4

-- Randy Lewis

Photo: Holly Williams. Credit: Alex Koester.

Bob Dylan's all-star album of 'lost' Hank Williams songs due Oct. 4

Bob Dylan sings Hank Williams

Hank Williams saluted by Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan’s long-gestating project to complete a batch of songs left unfinished by Hank Williams will see the light of day Oct. 4 with the release of “The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams,” a collection of a dozen songs for which Dylan, Merle Haggard, Jack White, Lucinda Williams, Norah Jones, Sheryl Crow and several other musicians created music for the country giant’s unpublished lyrics.

Dylan invited those with an affinity for Williams' music -- also including his own son, Jakob Dylan, Williams’ granddaughter, Holly,  as well as Vince Gill and Rodney Crowell, Alan Jackson, Levon Helm and Patty Loveless -- to select lyrics from a stockpile that Williams left behind in a leather briefcase when he died in 1953. Some lyrics were finished, others were just fragments or ideas Williams had jotted down. 

The album has been assembled in conjunction with the “Family Tradition” exhibition on Williams and his descendants at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, a show that opened in 2008 and will continue through Dec. 31.

Gill and Crowell collaborated on a song titled “I Hope You Shed a Million Tears,” for which Williams’ original steel guitarist, Don Helms, played on what turned out to be one of the final recording sessions before his death in 2008.

“The neat thing for me,” Gill told The Times three years ago, “was how the spirit of it felt like that era of music: Hank and the '50s. We all gathered in a circle, played together and played live with no overdubbing and no fixing. We just gathered 'round and had a pretty big time.”

Haggard sings "The Sermon on the Mount," a song for which he said, "I had to fix a few lines."

The album will be the second release on Dylan’s own label imprint, Egyptian Records.  The first was a 1997 tribute to pioneering country singer and songwriter Jimmie Rodgers with recordings of his songs by Dylan, Bono, Willie Nelson, Van Morrison, Steve Earle, Alison Krauss, Jerry Garcia and several others.

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-- Randy Lewis

Photo (left) of Bob Dylan. Credit: Los Angeles Times.

Photo (right) of Hank Williams. Credit: TNN.

Rockabilly star Imelda May talks about her top five guitar-toting influences in American music

Imelda may

With a tone and intensity rooted in iconic '50s artists that shaped the stateside rock 'n' roll landscape, Dublin, Ireland-born Imelda May’s career is fostered by paying homage to legends like Buddy Holly and Johnny Cash and, more importantly, furthering rockabilly’s cross-pollination into New Orleans jazz, delta blues and amp-splitting punk aggression. After gaining major spotlight and chart success with 2008's "Love Tattoo," the sound of the howling 37-year-old has turned into an express ticket to festival appearances, headlining gigs and TV appearances all over Europe and North America.

On Monday, as she sat in the green room awaiting her turn to take the stage on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno," May spoke to Pop & Hiss about the top five artists whom she says helped shape the soulful, rockabilly hybrid sound that reaches its latest peak with her forthcoming album, “Mayhem,” scheduled for release Tuesday in the U.S., which she’ll be celebrating with a show at the El Rey.

Elvis Presley. It’s only proper that May's list of influences would start with the King. Like so many others all over the world, she remembers being constantly surrounded by Elvis Presley in her native Ireland as it blared on the radio at home in Dublin. The first song she ever learned to play on the guitar were “Blue Moon of Kentucky” and eventually devoured his entire early catalog. But it wasn’t until she actually tried performing his songs live on the local club circuit that she realized how great he really was.

“With great artists like Elvis, sometimes the songs weren’t the greatest thing about him,” May said. “When I tried to perform some of the songs I noticed some of the tunes weren’t all that brilliant, but it was the performance that sold them.”

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Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi are at home with ‘Rome’

Pop producer Danger Mouse and Italian composer Daniele Luppi collaborate on an album inspired by spaghetti westerns.

Rome 

A shared passion can often spawn a friendship, but in the case of pop producer Danger Mouse and Italian composer Daniele Luppi, their mutual love of classic ’60s and ’70s Ennio Morricone scores and spaghetti westerns spawned that and much more. What began with pals swapping favorite rare records and vintage films became a five-year musical collaboration culminating in “Rome,” an ambitious album named after the Italian capital where they did most of the recording.

The acclaimed 15-track record, which has received praise from Entertainment Weekly, the Chicago Tribune and others, features several musicians who performed on Morricone’s most famous scores, including “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” and “Once Upon a Time in the West,” as well as distinct vocal turns by Jack White and Norah Jones. It showcases an unexpected side of Danger Mouse, the Grammy-winning producer and composer (born Brian Burton) whose credits include the soulful pop stylings of Gnarls Barkley and the jangly indie pop of Broken Bells. The L.A.-based Burton, however, says the process it felt like the most natural thing in the world.

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Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi conquer Rome, with Jack White in tow

Rome452_1 Danger Mouse may take his name from an animated rodent, but his track record of collaborations suggests he's closer to Voltron.

Over the last decade, the producer born Brian Burton has worked with everyone from underground rappers such as Gemini and MF Doom to indie icons Sparklehorse and James Mercer (the Shins), to cartoon band Gorillaz, to dirty bluesmen the Black Keys.

Predicting the artistic trajectory of the man behind the Grey Album is futile; he's constantly reforming and refracting expectations. Of course, his latest project with Italian composer Daniele Luppi has been subject to a five-year engagement -- with the last six months bearing promises of futuristic spaghetti western fusion featuring Jack White. And over the last few weeks, the vows have finally begun to be uttered.

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