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CD Reviews:
The Listening Room: Jack White, Brendan Benson and more...

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Monday, April 23, 2012

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Jack White


Third Man/XL

***1/2 stars

When it comes to Jack White and music, anything pretty much goes. The Detroit native turned Nashville guerrilla mogul has created and subsequently evolved distinct sounds with three different bands (the White Stripes, the Raconteurs, the Dead Weather), and he's worked in enough guest situations -- from James Bond movie themes to Hank Williams songs and faux spaghetti western tracks -- that by this point he's impossible to pin down. And that's a good thing. So it should be no surprise that the ever-shifting White's first solo album is similarly all over the map, drawing on those past exploits and weaving them into a fresh and frenetic sonic collage played by mostly female musicians, with appearances by the Raconteurs/Greenhornes rhythm section of Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler, folk hipster Poke LaFarge and drummer Daru Jones, who works with Detroit rapper Black Milk. This time out White gives piano -- played by himself and others -- equal and perhaps even greater weight than his guitar, lending a vibey ambience to tracks such as "Missing Pieces" and the single "Love Interruption." Roots and folk flavors dominate on "Hip (Eponymous) Boy," "I Guess I Should Go to Sleep" and the title track, while "Trash Tongue Talker" digs into bluesy grit. "Sixteen Saltines" is "Blunderbuss' " power rocker, while a cover of Little Willie John's "I'm Shakin'" takes on rockabilly and "Take Me With You When You Go" starts out with a jazzy swing before switching into garage-style psychedelia. Lyrically, White is poetic but direct; coming 10 months after he and Karen Elson -- who sings backup on three songs here -- "Blunderbuss" seems to take on a few "issues" and exorcise some demons. He's symbolically dismembered by a woman in "Missing Pieces," while he laments in "Freedom at 21" that "she don't care what kind of wounds she's inflicting on me/she don't care what color bruises that she's leaving on me." He turns that pain into musical gain, however, making "Blunderbuss" a stylistic thrill ride distinct from but certainly of a piece with anything else he's done to this point.


Brendan Benson, "What Kind of World" (Readymade) ***

On his own and with the Raconteurs, Brendan Benson has earned a well-deserved reputation for good taste as a singer-songwriter with a garage rock heart and a craftsman's ears. Marriage and fatherhood, meanwhile, have led him into more straightforward lyrical territory, more plain-spoken and less poetic and metaphorical than Benson's four "What Kind of World" predecessors. "What Kind of World" starts things of with ringing guitars and clear-eyed self-examination, but Benson's hand-wringing doesn't undermine the rocking spirit of tracks such as "Light of Day," "Here in the Deadlights," "Thru the Ceiling" and "Come On." "Bad For Me," "Happy Most of the Time" and "Keep Me" mine poppier terrain, while "Met Your Match" takes a New Wave turn and "One the Fence" gets rootsy with help form PIston Annies' Ashley Monroe. Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow of the Posies and Big Star also help Benson create the kind of sonic world we definitely want to listen to.

New & Noteworthy:

Arkells, "Michigan Left" (self-released): The Canadian rock troupe earned two Juno Award nominations for its mitten state-monikered sophomore album, which was released across the border last year.

Mickey Avalon, "Loaded" (Suburban Noise): The street-savvy singer from Hollywood delivers a sophomore album six years after his high-profile debut.

Lee Brice, "Hard 2 Love" (Curb): The country singer's second album includes songwriting collaborations with Eric Church, Jerrod Niemann, Rhett Atkins and other peers.

Cancer Bats, "Dead Set on Living" (Metal Blade): The fourth album by the Canadian headbangers includes a guest appearance by DevilDriver's Dez Fafara.

Dandy Warhols, "This Machine" (The End): The Portland alt.rockers have been playing songs from their ninth album since last year, when its working titles included "Whirled Piece."

Diamond Rugs, "Diamond Rugs" (Partisan): An all-star collaboration between members of Los Lobos, Dear Tick, the Black Lips, Dead Confederate and Six Finger Satellite.

Eve 6, "Speak in Code" (Fearless): The Los Angeles rock trio, whose Detroit-born drummer Tony Fagenson is the son of producer Don Was, disbanded in 2004 but reunited for its fourth album.

Peter Gabriel, "Live Blood" (Eagle Rock): A two-CD set drawn from the former Genesis frontman's orchestral shows last year in London.

Warren Haynes, "Live at the Moody Theater" (Stax/Concord): The highly credentialed guitarist rips through his own material on this CD/DVD set, as well as covers of Jimi Hendrix, Steely Dan and Sam Cooke classics. Faces keyboardist Ian McLagen guests.

Carole King, "Legendary Demos" (Rockingale/Hear Music/Concord): The legendary songwriter and artist raids her vaults for early versions of some of her best-known tunes.

Greg Laswell, "Landline" (Vanguard): You can be sure the producers of "Grey's Anatomy," which has used 10 of Laswell's previous songs, will be among those looking closely at his fourth set of original material.

LP, "Into the Wild" (Warner Bros.): Writing songs for Rihanna and Christina Aguilera helped New York singer Laura Pergolizzi score a deal for her own first album in eight years.

Barry Manilow, "Live in London" (Stiletto): The pop icon was joined by the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra for this show at the O2 arena.

Prong, "Carved into Stone" (Long Branch): The second studio album from the New York hardcore metal troupe since it re-formed in 2007.

Joe Pug, "Great Despiser" (Lightning Rod): The sophomore full-length album from the Chicago-based singer-songwriter.

Joe Satriani, "Satchurated: Live in Montreal" (Epic): A CD/DVD souvenir of the guitar hero playing with is own band is timed neatly to coincide with his current road trek with Chickenfoot.

Todd Snider, "Time As we Know It: The Songs of Jerry Jeff Walker" (Aimless/Thirty Tigers): Detroit native Don Was produced this tribute set, on which Snider is joined by Kix Brooks, Elizabeth Cook and more.

Curtis Stigers, "Let's Go Out Tonight" (Concord Jazz): The singer and saxophonist moves from his usual Great American Songbook to songs by Bob Dylan, Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, Richard Thompson, Eddie Floyd and others.

Marty Stuart, "Nashville, Volume 1: Tear the Woodpile Down" (Sugar Hill): The country veteran recruited all-star progeny Hank Williams III and Lorrie Carter Bennett to help him on this unapologetically traditional endeavor.

Walter Trout, "Blues For the Modern Daze" (Provogue): The former member of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers takes a mostly straightforward blues course, with plenty of extended jams, on this 15-song set.

Various Artists, "Mercyland: Hymns for the Rest of Us" (Mercyland): Phil Madeira coordinated this all-star survey of faith music, recruiting Emmylou Harris, the North Mississippi Allstars, Mat [cq] Kearney, the Civil Wars and more to testify with him.

Waco Brothers & Paul Burch, "Great Chicago Fire" (Bloodshot): The Chicago roots rockers team with the Nashville-based Burch for the Wacos' first set of new material since 2005.

From The Vaults: Deep Purple, "Total Abandon: Live in Australia '99" (Eagle Rock); Jeff Healey Band, "Live in Belgium" (Eagle Rock); Roy D. Mercer, "Ultimate Fits: The Very Best of..." (Capitol)

Soundtracks: Original Broadway Cast, "Bonnie & Clyde" (Broadway); Original Cast Recording, "Ghost: The Musical" (Surfdog); Various Artists, "Eastbound and Down" (Fat Possum)

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