sábado, março 25, 2006

Jack White's New Hue: Meet the Raconteurs (by Robert Hilburn para o Los Angeles Times)

There's a lot that's new in Jack White's life as he walks into the den of his new house on a street that has served as home for such rebels as Hank Williams and George Jones. The White Stripes leader has a new wife, a new band and, in May, he's due to become a new father.

The house makes sense. White was starting to feel a bit claustrophobic back home in Detroit, where he had lived all his 30 years. It was hard to go anywhere without someone coming up with a few words (or more) of advice or criticism.

Besides, he fell in love with Nashville and the South when he recorded an album here in 2003 with honky-tonk belle Loretta Lynn. He even chose the city's historic Ryman Auditorium, longtime home of the Grand Ole Opry, as the place to make his marriage to English model Karen Elson official. (The couple were first "wed" last June by a shaman priest on a canoe at the confluence of three rivers in Brazil.)

But there has been a lot of head scratching in the rock world over the matter of the new band.

Why, quite simply, would the most absorbing figure in American rock shelve his old duo — which has sold 9 million albums around the world and twice won Grammys for best alternative album — to spend this year hitting the road with a four-piece group called the Raconteurs?

It's a big commercial and creative gamble but, White says without hesitation, "You've always got to let the music dictate where you go. You die as a musician when you stop exploring. When this band started, we never sat down and said, 'This is what we want to do.' The music could have gone any way. This could have been a country band for all we knew. I love leaping into the unknown."

White already confused radio programmers and part of his fan base when he stepped away from the Stripes to produce the Lynn album and laid down his trademark guitar for most of the Stripes' "Get Behind Me Satan" album. Each of his renegade steps has sharpened his musical command — so far.

The verdict on the Raconteurs' "Broken Boy Soldiers" won't be in until it hits the streets May 16 on Third Man/V2 Records. Rolling Stone has already given a thumbs up for the single, which is available on http://www.theraconteurs.com . In describing the sweet, melodic feel of the single, "Steady, as She Goes," the magazine declared the single "sounds like the Stripes with a little more peppermint." England's NME calls the record "gleeful and unabashed fun."

One thing is immediately clear about the album: It is not just a Jack White exercise. You also feel the presence on the album of White's new co-vocalist and songwriting partner, Brendan Benson, and the rhythm section of bassist Jack Lawrence and drummer Patrick Keeler.

On the CD, the quartet applies some distinctly modern rock sensibilities to classic '60s and '70s influences. There should be enough blues-power guitar tunes to keep Stripes fans happy, but there are also harmony-rich updates of Lennon-McCartney-style ballads. The songs are also wrapped frequently in striking psychedelic textures that make them a headphone delight and allow the textures to comment on the lyrics in sometimes wry, sometimes poignant ways.

"This experience has been great," says White, in his first U.S. interview with the new band. In the Stripes, his insistence on doing things his own way, whether it's photo shoots or recording in two weeks on a $10,000 budget, led some detractors to call him a dictator or egomaniac.

"A lot of time people mistake ego for passion," he says. "You just want to get a job done and you don't want anything to stand in your way. But it's also inspiring to feed off each other and create something beautiful. In this band, it's four people feeding off each other, and that's a joy."

Allure of local color

You are quickly reminded that White is new to town as he slips behind the wheel of the black pickup truck he brought with him from Detroit and heads for a local cafe for a late lunch.

It takes him a good 30 minutes to find the cafe, which is probably no more than 12 minutes from his house. One clue that he is lost: He passes the same Vanderbilt University campus signpost three times.

White could have settled for a closer restaurant, but he loves to seek out private haunts — usually funky places, the more out-of-the-way, the better.

Back in his native Detroit, he once drove me nearly 45 minutes to a favorite Dearborn bar for two double cheeseburgers. Blender magazine recently made fun of that craving in its irreverent monthly feature, "When Will Your Favorite Pop Star Croak?" The idea of the goofy column is to predict a star's life expectancy, adding and taking off years based on the subject's lifestyle. In White's case, the bar burgers cost him four years.

"Actually, I don't eat that many cheeseburgers," says White, standing in the order line at the cafe counter. He passes on the high-cholesterol items, including the temptation of his Detroit favorite, and orders a more health-conscious chicken-fettuccini salad.

"This should give me back a couple of years," he says with a smile as he heads for a corner table.

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