Photo by Phil Sharp

Yesterday we had the pleasure of sitting in a room full of journalists, musicians and industry folk to listen to Jack White's debut album, Blunderbuss. This wasn't your standard album playback event full of people either awkwardly avoiding eye contact with each other, or 'networking', this was a night full of 'Blunderbuss' cocktails, a giant screen and a short talk. All a bit surreal, especially when you throw the Mayor of Lambeth (Councillor Christiana Valcarcel) into the mix.

Rather than bringing you a pointless track-by-track guide of the album itself, we thought we would give you an overview of the event, including our initial thoughts on the music we were presented with.

Tracklist:

  • 1. Missing Pieces
  • 2. Sixteen Saltines
  • 3. Freedom at 21
  • 4. Love Interruption
  • 5. Blunderbuss
  • 6. Hypocritical Kiss
  • 7. Weep Themselves to Sleep
  • 8. I'm Shakin'
  • 9. Trash Tongue Talker
  • 10. Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy
  • 11. I Guess I Should Go to Sleep
  • 12. On and On and On
  • 13. Take Me with You When You Go

The invitation was vague, telling us to arrive at Waterloos County Hall Debate Room for 6pm. Walking into the grand entrance of the building the security guard took one look at us and pointed to a staircase. I guess it's not often a couple of unshaven chaps in skinny jeans venture into the building.

After a brief drinks reception where only two drinks were on offer, Evian or The Blunderbuss, a cocktail named after the album, sharing a similar turquoise blue colour scheme and containing bourbon, we are then ushered into The Debating room and allocated seat numbers at random and told to turn off all phones and take a seat. The random guest placement means you're flanked by strangers and left to take in the old circular room (imagine if the House of Commons was in a horseshoe and that's the best way to describe the space). The final guest takes her seat, a middle aged woman draped in an official looking cloak which brings a bemused snigger to the room. You would assume some old ruling means that an official needs to be in attendance while the room is used perhaps. The lights dim and a projector screen comes to life with Jack White coming on screen, starting a record player and placing the needle on the record.

The opening track 'Missing Pieces' immediately filled the tall ceilinged room with sound and its clear that relocating to Nashville has influenced and inspired White immensly. Tracks like 'Sixteen Saltines' and 'Love Interruption' have both had official videos, so are expected inclusions on the album, while songs like 'Hypocritical Kiss' really stand out on first listen. Overall the album infuses heavy blues and soul, while female harmonies and strings balance the strong guitars. Its hard to give a fair account of an album on just one listen but my initial thoughts are that White has followed in the recent footsteps of The Black Keys and Girls in making an old sound appear modern and fresh.

As the needle edged towards the end of the record, photographers repositioned themselves and two chairs are placed in the middle of the room. The middle aged woman from earlier is introduced as the Mayor of Lambeth and after some words from her thanking us all for coming, her honour introduces the man of the hour himself. Jack White comes in to the room greeted by a round of applause and he takes a seat next to the mayor where they move into an awkward Q&A, no qualms about it, the mayor is a little bit bonkers but Jack deals with her questioning brilliantly and shares with the audience his work as an upholsterer growing up in Detroit. With some time remaining, a few questions are put to the floor and White talks us through the album, his inspiration and how it started out when he'd flown in some out of town musicians for a session he was producing when the artist couldn't make it and he didn't want to put that talent to waste in his studio.

The night was an interesting concept and unique approach to a playback. The album is good, but how good remains to be seen. The middle section will need a more attentive listen and definitely more than just the one listen, but enough was heard last night to make this albums official release on 23rd April an exciting prospect and one probably best purchased on vinyl.