Jack White "Lazaretto"

Jack White inspires torrents of adjectives from fans and critics alike; Bizarre, wonderful, derivative, original, idiosyncratic, riveting, annoying, cutting edge. One thing is for sure, he’s impossible to ignore or to categorize, and he’s a polarizing figure. Lazaretto is his second solo release, and by my standards, his most enthralling work to date. He has a rare talent that breaks conventions while somehow making his peculiar musical amalgamations accessible to a wide audience.  Mining early American music – blues, old-timey folk, and bluegrass, and mixing it with a modern sensibility that includes psychedelic, punk rock and metal music, he’s created something that is distinctly and weirdly his.

The lyrical inspiration for Lazaretto comes from a series of short stories and plays that White wrote when he was nineteen years old. Using these as source material he mingles bravado and pathos with a healthy dose of self-deprecating humor. A tongue-in-cheek skewering of sexual conquest plays out on “Three Women,” a bluesy number that features lots of keyboard – both piano and organ – and White’s hyperactive guitar work. Youthful indignation is the theme of  “Entitlement” a sweet ballad that features harp and pedal steel. White’s musical direction zig-zags  from country ballads to crashing rockers. “Temporary Grounds” swells with fiddles and tinny piano and features the vocals of Little Mae Rische. The next track “Would You Fight For My Love?” begins ominously. Deep minor keys and plaintive vocals build to full band and operatic backing vocals. White then brings on the thumping instrumental track “High Ball Stepper” which falls somewhere between psychedelic rock anthem and a study in gritty electric blues.

I’ve admired White for his penchant for working with women. He does so again here assembly many of the musicians who worked with him on Blunderbuss, including Brooke Waggoner, Carla Azur, and Rische. He uses the female pronoun when mentioning God on the title track. It’s just one of the many ways that White separates himself from the pack.

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix)