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(Credit: Press / David James Swanson)

Music

Jack White returns to form with 'Entering Heaven Alive'

Jack White - 'Entering Heaven Alive'
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Jack White is an artist in every sense of the word. His inclusion in the guitar heroes documentary It Might Get Loud (2008), alongside guitarists from two of the world’s biggest bands – Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and U2’s The Edge – cemented his role as a force to be reckoned with.

White has a formidable and envious musical output to look back on, whether it be his initial blues-rock work with The White Stripes, his collaborative efforts with The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather, or his now glittering career as a solo artist.

Today, White released a new full-length album entitled Entering Heaven Alive, his fourth solo effort following the excellent Blunderbuss (2012) and Lazaretto (2014) and the somewhat questionable Fear of the Dawn, which was released earlier this year. Fear of Dawn sounded like an absolute mess; it was as though The White Stripes had attempted to write a pop album; it just didn’t work. Jack White had also adopted a terribly dodgy blue haircut to match the record’s frantic and jarring sound.

Entering Heaven Alive, however, sounds like a return to form for the Michigan-born modern blues legend. It’s everything a solo record should be; namely, it should sound just that: ‘solo’, i.e. an artist’s individual efforts. By contrast, Fear of the Dawn sounded like White had crammed as many of his Third Man alumni as possible into the studio and said, “Right, let ‘em have it, boys!” This new record, however, sounds like White’s own personal output; it’s patient, intimate and makes us feel at one with White’s songwriting prowess. Everything a solo record ought to be.

The album opens with ‘A Tip From You To Me’, a dour piano ballad reminiscent of Blunderbuss’ ‘Love Interruption’ and ‘Hypocritical Kiss’. This leads straight into ‘All Along The Way’, an acoustic journeylike effort that evokes White at Robert Johnson’s crossroads, down and out on his luck.

White continues this restrained approach throughout the album, refusing to delve into the mess of his other 2022 full-length release, particularly on ‘Love Is Selfish’, although he is also unafraid to occasionally funk it up a little and let loose the lead guitar skills with which is so acclaimed for, most notably on ‘I’ve Got You Surrounded (With My Love)’.

Elsewhere White provides us with a trip to the saloon bars of old with ‘Tree On Fire From Within’ and the somewhat humorous cabaret style ‘Queen Of The Bees’ and ‘Taking Me Back Gently’. Meanwhile, ‘Madman From Manhattan’ is a grooving walk through the maddening high life of New York’s famous borough.

It has always felt like there are two Jack White’s within the man himself; one with the boundless energy of a guitar solo that only White can play – say on the self-titled track of 2007’s Icky Thump – and another that possesses an enviable knowledge of the history of blues music, most exemplified on Blunderbuss and Lazaretto, what with their range of musical styles drawn from the many facets of the genre.

Entering Heaven Alive is most definitely a record written by the latter Jack White; it is a crash course through the history of blues, whether that be expressed through campfire-side acoustic guitar tracks, wandering piano ballads, or something you’d be likely to hear in a saloon bar in the golden age of the West in the late 19th Century.