4 stars

For those who don’t know, a blunderbuss is a gun. Specifically, it’s a muzzle-loading shooter that was viewed as a predecessor to the shotgun. The Dutch roots of the word translate as “thunder-pipe,” so, it seems quite amusing that Jack White would use this very term to title his debut solo album. It is easy to imagine fans of his previous works glancing at such a heading and immediately begin to connect certain adjectives to denote their growing expectations. And in all honesty, I’ve listed some in my mind also.

Explosive, volatile, dangerous, uncontrolled, fun, thunderous, loud and booming.

Yet, these eight words seem too reflective of The White Stripes. It throws me back to White’s promise that the band would not reunite anytime in the near future. However, I stubbornly listened (expecting familiarity), waiting for the sounds of The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather (White’s other musical projects) to begin trickling into his finger-shredding, rip-roaring tunes. 13 songs later, I was let down by my misguided nostalgia. Yet, I was also hopeful and recovering from the unforeseen flurry of punches pulled in his debut album, Blunderbuss.

The first image that sums up this album is the piano. Here, the instrument cries aloud with clarity: all mixed-up in salon-inspired jigs and honky-tonk tunes. From “Hypocritical Kiss” and onward, the piano, not the electric guitar, most resoundingly channels the new direction of Jack White, especially in songs such as “Weep Themselves to Sleep,” “I’m Shakin’” and “Trash Tongue Talker.” Yet, White’s radical departure doesn’t seem to alter the quality of the songs. The entire set-list is solid as a whole, just different from what most fans would expect.

I’ll admit that it’s dangerous to think in that way. The album has many moments in which White’s past projects favorably encroach on his current sound. “Take Me With You When You Go,” “Sixteen Saltines” and “Freedom at 21” should quench the thirst of those pining for White’s good ol’ days. However, there is a set vision in Blunderbuss and White doesn’t seem to let any deviation show in his playing. So, as a fan, I appreciate and respect the conviction that he shows in this work. In fact, “Freedom at 21” easily ranks alongside some of my favorite works by White. It plays in a super-cool, sleek manner, allowing a bit of a club vibe to echo through the guitar and bass.

Nevertheless, Blunderbuss is a solid effort from a musician with a truly decorated background. Solo albums are a fickle beast to master, and Jack has done everything here to the best of his ability. Yet, our nostalgia and expectations just seem too eager to cloud all of his efforts in Blunderbuss. Word of advice: don’t let it. Eventually, that fog will settle and allow the album to be a piece of work that stands on its own with a great lot to offer for its listeners.

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