Monday, August 27, 2012

Jack White and The Blues

“By the time I was about 18, somebody played me Sun House. And that was it for me.” That was the moment when Jack White was born. Most prominent as one half of the now defunct band, The White Stripes, Jack White has since been part of The Racountuers, Dead Weather and also collaborated with Bob Dylan, Jeff Beck, The Rolling Stones and Alicia Keys among others.

Youngest of ten siblings, White was born in Detroit, Michigan in a middle-class Catholic family. The “bluesman of the 21st century” as I like to call him, Jack White, along with Meg White started The White Stripes in 1997. The band’s sound was a marriage of old-school blues and aggressive punk rock with a garage rock love affair on the side. Dirty blues just got dirtier, folks. I don’t think there are many music listeners who haven’t heard their wildly popular track Seven Nation Army. That should give you a fair idea of what the band sounded like. But Jack White? Oh, there is so much more to him. 

I first heard Jack White on Ball and Biscuit(from the Elephant album) back in 2007. Before that, my idea of blues was Sun House and BB King. And in its wildest form, blues music for me was Jimi Hendrix. But this was completely new. And yet it managed to sustain the essentials of the blues. To this day, every time I play the guitar riff of Ball And Biscuit, I catch myself thinking “Man, this song is cool!” And last year, when I saw the documentary It Might Get Loud (which features The Edge from U2 and the great Jimmy Page, if you needed an incentive to watch it) it made me appreciate White’s music even more because it gave me a clear idea of where he’s coming from. Here in India, blues music is hardly popular. And I fail to understand why. For the 19 20 years that I lived in Calcutta, every music bar I went to had, more often than not, a bunch of guys, dressed in black playing some Metallica song as loud as they possibly can. Now, I have nothing against metal but I fail to understand this nation’s obsession with it. The blues was invented early into the 1900s by the blacks enslaved in the USA.   Having no other way to vent their frustration and sorrow, they came up with the blues. And since we share a fairly similar history of being “enslaved” by the whites, it seems to me that we should be relating more to blues than metal. Hopefully, India will, one day recognize the beauty of true blues and not just John-Oh-My-God-He’s-So-Hot-Mayer, who, I’m sorry to break it to you is as blues as the Jonas Brothers.

But why did I start off this note with Jack White? Well, back in April, he came out with his first solo record, Blunderbuss. So this is my way to repay him for all the great music he’s dished out for us for the year decade or so. Go give it a listen. Maybe start off with the first single, Love Interruptions. And then move on to, my favourite track from the album, Missing Pieces. Whatever route you take, Blunderbuss is an album you won’t regret giving a chance.

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