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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: White Stripes, Drive-By Truckers

of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, March 14, 2010

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The White Stripes

“Under Great White Northern Lights”

Third Man/Warner Bros.


Jack White has been so busy during the past couple of years with his other bands, the Raconteurs and the Dead Weather, that the White Stripes have come to feel like a past-tense memory — almost. But that’s changing, thanks to a plethora of product, both audio and visual, documenting the Detroit-formed duo’s 2007 traipse through Canada, a sojourn that went beyond traditional concert venues to include a bowling alley, a public bus, a pool hall, a flour mill, a First Nation lodge and even a one-note concert — where White and his “big sister” Meg literally played a single note — in Newfoundland. The 93-minute film of the tour, directed by Jack Johnson cohort Emmett Malloy, captures every charming nuance of the tour, from the performances to the back seats of the vintage cars that picked the duo up from its charter plane (the mayor of Yellowknife acts as chauffeur in that town) to extremely intimate backstage and onstage footage, the latter of which locks into the nonverbal chemistry the once-married couple shares during their kinetic, barely hinged concerts. Detroit fans will delight in too-brief glimpses of the Stripes’ first gig at the old Gold Dollar, and the revealing interview segments are given additional heft by a closing scene of Jack playing piano and singing as Meg weeps.

Meanwhile, the companion album — recorded at the Stripes’ 10th anniversary concert in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, well-covered in the film — is the live album fans have been clamoring for. The decade-spanning 16-song set finds the Whites in typically charged form, ushered onstage by a bagpipe core before tearing into their first single, 1988’s “Let’s Shake Hands.” The then-new “Icky Thump” album is represented by the title track, the mandolin-driven, bagpipe-accented “Prickly Thorn, But Sweetly Worn” and a particularly forceful rendition of the folk rock-flavored “300 MPH Torrential Outpour Blues.” Jack is at his histrionic best on Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” while the Savoy Theatre crowd jumps in at the beginning of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself” as well as at the end of “I’m Slowly Turning Into You.” “Fell in Love With a Girl” gets a slow, loping revision, while “Seven Nation Army” closes the show with the crowd singing again, this time in unison with the song’s signature riff. A separate DVD, “Under Nova Scotian Lights,” shows us what it all looked like, and combined these releases should tide over Stripes fans until the duo starts working on its next 10 years.


Drive-By Truckers, “The Big To-Do” (ATO) ***

After the sweeping reach of 2008’s “Brighter Than Creation’s Dark,” the Southern rockers go for something a bit more modest on their latest album — and pull that off, too. The key is that Drive-By Truckers have three bona fide solid songwriters in the band; though Patterson Hood continues to be the most prolific, guitarist Mike Cooley and bassist Shonna Tucker make their contributions count not only for themselves but for the overall balance of the 13-track album. The Tucker-sung “You Got Another,” in fact, is one of “The Big To-Do’s” prettiest moments, while Cooley’s “Get Downtown” answers and complements to Hood’s “This (expletive) Job” in a visceral observation of the current economic climate. Hood, meanwhile, makes his mark with expansive narratives such as “Drag the Lake Charlie,” “The Fourth Night of My Drinking,” the true-life murder tale “The Wig He Made Her Wear” and “The Flying Wallendas.” And, needless to say, “The Big To-Do” has plenty of killer guitar riffs and stomping hard rock to go with the vivid lyricism. Your Lynyrd Skynyrd and Allman Brothers Band records are all well and good, but DBT remains the best face of Southern rock’s present.

New & Noteworthy:

Aiden, “From Hell...With Love” (Victory): The spooky rockers from Seattle unleash their first live set after four studio albums and a couple of EPs.

Popa Chubby, “Fight is On” (Blind Pig): The New York blues rocker (real name Ted Horowitz) turns 50 in a couple weeks but still sounds in fit, fighting form on his latest album.

The Cringe, “Play Thing” (Mega Force): This rock quartet is led by John Cusimano, husband of TV’s Rachael Ray. You decide if the band name is indicative of its sound.

Disco Biscuits, “Planet Anthem” (Diamond Riggs): The Philadelphia electronic/jam band spent three years working on its latest effort, bringing in a rash of guest musicians, producers and songwriters to help out.

Fye Dangerfield, “Fly Yellow Moon” (Polydor): A solo album from the frontman of Britain’s Guillemots, who are in down mode after the attention-getting 2008 debut “Red.”

Dropkick Murphys, “Live on Landsdowne, Boston MA” (Born & Bred): A CD and DVD chronicle of what these Celtic rockers from Boston do best — raise an unholy and unforgettable ruckus.

Fireball Ministry, “Fireball Ministry” (Restricted Release): The California underground hard rock heroes resurface five years after its last album, “Their Rock is Not Our Rock.”

Flobots, “Survival Story” (Republic): The rap-pop collective adds Rise Against frontman Tim McIlrath to its ranks for a guest appearance on its sophomore album.

From First to Last, “Throne to the Wolves” (Rise): The post-hardcore rockers from Los Angeles return for a fifth album, their first since parting ways with guitarist Travis Richter.

Tia Fuller, “Decisive Steps” (Mack Avenue): The third solo album by the saxophonist best known as a member of Beyonce’s touring band.

Anthony Jackson, “Interspirit” (Abstract Logic): The first-ever solo album by the bassist whose credits include the O’Jays, Chaka Khan, Steely Dan, Chick Corea and Quincy Jones.

Locksley, “Be in Love” (Feature): The second album from the Wisconsin quartet — a pair of brothers — who have toured as the backing band for the Kinks’ Ray Davies.

Brad Mehldau, “Highway Rider” (Nonesuch): The jazz pianist teams up for a second time with celebrated producer Jon Brion on a two-CD set of original compositions for both small group and 15-piece ensemble.

The Nadas, “Almanac” (Authentic): The seventh album from the Des Moines, Iowa, rock troupe Playboy magazine once dubbed the Best College Band You’ve Never Heard Of.

Neon Trees, “Habits” (Island/Mercury): The debut album from the Provo, Utah, rock quartet is stoking anticipation with its first popular first single, “Animal.”

Graham Parker, “Imaginary Television” (Bloodshot): The British-born singer-songwriter’s latest is a conceptual piece featuring theme songs to nonexistent TV shows for which he created treatments. Talking about thinking outside of — or is it inside? — the box.

Marvin Sapp, “Here I Am” (Verity): The Grand Rapids native, pastor and former Commissioned member reviews his gospel catalog on this live album.

Various Artists, “Music of Ireland — Welcome Home” (Barnes & Noble): The Chieftains, Sinead O’Connor, Liam Clancy, Orla Fallon and Moya Brennan are among the notables who perform for this CD/DVD documentary package.

Wakey! Wakey!, “Almost Everything I Wish I’d Said I Said the Last Time I Saw You...” (Family): A second album of sophisticated pop from the indie group that, as the title indicates, has a lot to say.

The Whigs, “In the Dark” (ATO): The Athens, Ga. rock trio brought in three producers to broaden the soundscape for its third album.

From the Vaults: Ella Fitzgerald, “The Best of Twelve Nights in Hollywood” (Verve); Grateful Dead, “Road Trips Vol. 3, No. 2: Austin 11-15-71” (Dead.net/Rhino); The Runaways, “Mercury Albums Anthology” (Hip-O Select)

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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