From his work with the White Stripes to The Raconteurs and his solo career, Jack White has gained a worldwide reputation for his energetic electric blues rock hits, often on display in commercials, film and stadiums around the world. But instead of rocking out on another album, White puts his softer side on display with his newest compilation, Acoustic Recordings 1998–2016.
While listening to his discography, it’s obvious White prides himself as a singer-songwriter, incorporating an acoustic song or two on albums while performing with the White Stripes but eventually letting his subtler side take over his solo projects. With the release of this compilation, White has created a record for his most dedicated fans. Although it may include only one new song, the album highlights how multi-dimensional White can be as a songwriter.
The spine of Acoustic Recordings is a series of remixes oriented toward an acoustic bluegrass style. Of all the mixes, the Raconteurs’ “Carolina Drama (Acoustic Mix)” stands out because of how it deviates from the original, taking the 2010 track and removing the song’s drums in favor of a stand-up bass, violin and mandolin. The track as a whole feels closer to its storytelling roots, benefiting from both the subtle and unsubtle touches White brings to the remix. The horns on “Love Is The Truth (Acoustic Mix)” bring the Coca-Cola jingle into another dimension, making the song stand as a strong example of White’s attention to detail.
Most songs don’t jump out in the same manner, instead incorporating smaller elements to subtly adjust a song’s sound. The added acoustic percussion on “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy” is mixed so far back into the song it’s almost unnoticeable upon first listen. However, with closer inspection, the song’s message benefits from the added percussion.
But not every remix is perfect — one or two make little to no progress with their subtle additions or subtractions. For a song that already sounds like Led Zeppelin, “I’m Bound to Pack It Up (Remixed)” gets even closer to its inspiration but introduces an electric violin that adds almost nothing to the song.
The highlight of the compilation is the only new song on the album: “City Lights.” Released in mid-August for promotional purposes, the single is placed 12th on the album’s track list, hinting that it was recorded by White sometime during sessions for the White Stripes’ Get Behind Me Satin. With his guitar and vocals, along with his former bandmate Meg White’s shaker, White builds a calming and emotional song. Although “City Lights” feels a demo dug up and redubbed for this compilation, at least it’s something new.
Although this is a “new” album from White, a heavy portion of the album’s 26 tracks are unadjusted from their original album releases. It’s nice to have all of White’s acoustic-oriented songs in one place, but this compilation brings up the question of what White has been working on since his last full-fledged release in 2014.
Between this release, the announcement of his break from live performances and his collaboration with Beyoncé, White has shown that he has the time and will to get back into the studio. It feels like White has something the works, but only time will tell. For now, this compilation will tide over fans until something new comes along.
Acoustic Recordings 1998–2016