“Blunderbuss” (Third Man Records) Rating: Four stars (out of four)
Jack White is a man of the past leading us into the future.
With a firm grasp on jazz, blues and rock ‘n' roll, White is showing off his old-school skills in a brand new way.
Thumping bass, jazz piano, guitar solos and blues music aren't particularly novel ideas, but the way they're presented together is definitely fresh.
“Freedom at 21” takes thumping bass and a grooving guitar hook and turns them into a rarity: a truly danceable rock song. “Sixtine Saltines” is a rock jam crafted to make you reach for the volume knob and turn it all the way to the right. “Love Interruption” follows as a singer-songwriter duet heavy on the blues.
The album includes pedal-steel guitar, classical piano, acoustic guitar, power chords and jazz bass, and it all comes together like a rock symphony.
Those longing for another White Stripes album should quiet down. This is the Jack White we want, the one with a complete, fully fleshed out character. Moving from the two-member White Stripes rock to this is like an actor graduating from a hobbyist's improv troupe to a starring role in a Broadway production.
— Kevin Coffey
“California 37” (Columbia Records) Rating: Two stars (out of four)
Train has built a reputation on heart-warming pop singles.
For the band's first album in three years they're at it again.
They're more into wall-of-sound powerpop this time around, especially with lead-off single “Drive By.” The tune also captures a lyrical silliness that results from plugging in words because they rhyme, not because they're the right words to use.
Take these lines: “On the upside, do a downward spiral/My love for you went viral.” What?
The verses on “This'll Be My Year” are a poor attempt at a “We Didn't Start the Fire” remake, but the chorus has wonderful hooks. If only there were better verses around it.
“Bruises,” which features Ashley Monroe on vocals, is a toe-tapping acoustic track that is destined, much like “Hey, Soul Sister,” to grace many movie trailers, TV scenes and scenes in romantic comedies.
It's a gem of a pop song that ventures more into country territory than any of Train's other music.
“Bruises” and the ukelele and vocal harmony-filled “Sing Together” are the standouts. “We Were Made for This,” pop anthem and potential single, is the runner-up but it's not really memorable.
— Kevin Coffey