Jack White: Acoustic Recordings 1998-2016


Videos by American Songwriter

Jack White
Acoustic Recordings 1998-2016
(Third Man/Columbia)
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

True to its bland if accurate title, Jack White’s first career overview compilation collects various unplugged selections from an 18 year span. The 26 song set assembles hard to find B sides, soundtrack recordings, non-album/previously unreleased material, alternate mixes and even a Coca-Cola commercial to spice up the package. Those rarities will likely encourage collectors to dig into their pockets to spring for this, even though most of these songs are easily available on White Stripes, Raconteurs and White’s own solo albums. The double CD package (also available as a double vinyl) features White Stripes music on the first CD with music made afterwards on the second.

Much has been made about “City Lights,” the first “new” White Stripes release since 2008. The track was recorded in 2005 for the Get Behind Me Satan sessions and finished this year. It’s pretty but bland and since Meg White is relegated to background shakers, not exactly what you’d hope for a previously “lost” White Stripes tune. Meg also provides subtle percussion on the much better rare “Honey, We Can’t Afford to Look this Cheap,” with Jack playing piano and Beck guesting on slide guitar.

There are interesting, somewhat enlightening moments scattered throughout, in particular a 2008 folksy/bluegrass version of the Raconteurs’ “Top Yourself” and 2012’s “Machine Gun Silhouette (Acoustic Mix)” both previously available as B sides only collectors would typically have heard.

Since White has sporadically released acoustic music during his recording life, the concept of an entire double disc of that music isn’t particularly revelatory. Still, it’s a solid collection of music, most of it worth revisiting and a reminder that White’s talents are just as impressive when he strips his songs down as when he plugs in and cuts loose. His blues, folk and country influences are easier to spot, especially spotlighted as they are here.

But unless you are a White fanatic, the few hard to find selections generally aren’t compelling enough to purchase lots of songs easy to obtain. That makes this an interesting but hardly essential stop-gap release until White’s next official project which, based on his prolific tendencies, should be pretty soon.   

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