CD reviews: Jack White, Rory Block, Warren Haynes Band
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Blunderbuss /Third Man/Columbia
Just in case you were waiting for the perfect Jack White album to come along, the one where every song is a pristine symphony to some higher power, let me be the first to say that “Blunderbuss” is not that album.
Thank goodness for that, by the way. A perfect album would be, well, boring.
White, who until recently was one-half of the indie act that actually deserved to make it, White Stripes, has always had an amazing ability to meld musical styles, especially those of raw R&B with clanky garage rock. That likely comes from his upbringing in Detroit, where acts playing those respective styles share close quarters among the practice and performance spaces.
No, “Blunderbuss” is not perfect, but it is an exciting and aurally rewarding journey. From the cool Mellotron notes that open the album’s first track, “Missing Pieces,” to the MC5-like guitar chords that kick out the jams on the first single, “Sixteen Saltines,” this is a hybrid record that revels in its blemishes.
That isn’t to say that “Blunderbuss” is sloppy — quite the contrary. But White’s voice, which makes up for in passion what it lacks in quality, squeaks and growls all over the place while he knocks out wonderfully distorted and manipulated guitar solos (one of my favorites is on “Freedom at 21”).
The cover of Little Willie John’s “I’m Shakin’ ” is great, too.
The whole thing sounds like some dark, wonderful soundtrack to a movie that seems to be playing in White’s head. I’d actually pay to see that flick.
Key Tracks: “Sixteen Saltines,” “Freedom At 21,” “I’m Shakin’ ”
Warren Haynes Band
Live at the Moody Theater/Stax
Make a list of the most underrated guitarists playing today, and right up there among the Eric Schenkmans and Mark Knopflers (Google them), you’ll find North Carolina native Warren Haynes.
Sure, Haynes plays in the Allman Brothers Band, The Dead, Gov’t Mule and about a half-dozen other outfits, but unless you are a guitar geek really into Southern artists, then you can be forgiven for not being familiar with the guy.
He’s known and loved here in Charleston, though, as witnessed by the warm welcome the Warren Haynes Band received a couple of weeks ago at the Charleston Music Hall.
Now, on the heels of that show, comes “Live at the Moody Theater,” which showcases a live performance by Haynes and his band last year in Austin, Texas.
Like just about every other Haynes live performance that came before it, the concert is an incredible live music experience. Haynes is a true professional, always giving 110 percent, and on this two-CD set he performs original songs such as “Fire in the Kitchen” and “River’s Gonna Rise.” The band also throws in a generous helping of covers, including a brilliant version of Steely Dan’s “Pretzel Logic,” a cover of “Spanish Castle Magic” that would have made Jimi Hendrix himself smile and a beautiful nod to Sam Cooke with “A Change is Gonna Come.”
The set also includes a DVD of the show.
If you’re still kicking yourself for missing Haynes at the Charleston Music Hall last month, then “Live at the Moody Theater” hopefully will ease that pain a bit.
Key Tracks: “Fire in the Kitchen,” “Pretzel Logic,” “A Change is Gonna Come”
I Belong to the Band: A Tribute to Rev. Gary Davis/Stony Plain
In 1964, Rory Block was 14. Even at that early age, she was immersing herself in the world of blues music, and that year her musical education included a visit to the Bronx, N.Y., home of the Rev. Gary Davis.
Davis, who was born in South Carolina and died in 1972, is well-known among blues and gospel aficionados for his unusual finger-picking style.
Block’s meeting with the bluesman nearly a half-century ago apparently influenced her own musical path enough that she has recorded and released a tribute to the late artist. “I Belong to the Band” is Block’s third album in a series that pays tribute to blues artists.
Listening to Block cover Davis songs such as “Samson & Delilah,” “Lo, I Be With You Always” and the title track, you can hear the emotion in Block’s voice and feel how much she cares about Davis’ music.
“I Belong to the Band” is not necessarily the best of Block’s tribute albums. Last year’s “Shake ’Em on Down,” which cast the spotlight on Mississippi Fred McDowell, is superior. However, if emotional investment were the sole measurement of an album’s worth, “I Belong to the Band” likely would top the list.
Key Tracks: “Samson & Delilah,” “I Belong to the Band,” “Pure Religion”
?By Devin Grant