Album Review: Jack White – Acoustic Sessions 1998 – 2016
Jack White is not an artist that is easily categorised. There are many facets to his music, and to his persona. As one half of The White Stripes, he promoted a very modern style of ironic detachment, but he also fetishises the recording techniques of a bygone era. As a musician, he’s equally as likely to pen a country ballad as he is to write a garage-rock stomper. Acoustic Recordings seemingly tries to zero in on one particular facet of White’s style, but in doing so, it only displays just how versatile he is.
Presented in chronological order, Acoustic Recordings works best as an interesting display of artistic evolution, presented in a rarely concise, linear fashion. It’s a collection of the acoustic-based tracks from White’s various solo and White Stripes albums, which immediately means that certain well-known facets of his style are excised. The most obvious is White’s virtuosic skill with a guitar, which he almost never displays on an acoustic, preferring to take a restrained approach. The other difference is that animalistic intensity of The White Stripes’ biggest hits in nowhere to be found, as this collection is largely sombre and subdued.
Listening to the first and last tracks of the compilation, Sugar Never Tasted So Good from The White Stripes self-titled debut album, and Want and Able from his 2014 solo LP Lazaretto, it’s easily apparent just how much his style of songwriting has evolved, even whilst remaining identifiably his. The former is raucous and crunchy, with White singing about lust in a piercing yelp, whereas the latter draws its melody from folk ballads, and accompanied by gospel piano, sounds much more mature and contented.
This shift in style in a gradual one, beginning with Never Far Away (the first seven tracks are jaunty numbers like Hotel Yorba) and climaxing with Love Interruption, the lead single from Blunderbuss. In fact, the album fizzles a bit towards the end, with the lowered energy of the Lazaretto tracks creating a muted end to an already long (90 minutes) album. As an actual listening experience, Acoustic Sessions borders on being overly indulgent to the point of tedium, but as a collection of songs from one of America’s great songwriters, it’s a worthy entry in his canon.