Daily Dose: Jack White, “All Along the Way”

I love Jack White. It is a deep, abiding love that has weathered the test of time–from the White Stripes to his solo career, the Dead Weather and Bond, and his brief foray into film (and Rene Zellweger). I’m here for it!

While researching Disney artist Eyvind Earle for an exhibition I helped curate at The Walt Disney Family Museum in 2017, I “met” his father, Ferdinand Earle, who was an eccentric scoundrel. Whenever he cheated on his wife with a new paramour, he claimed the urges were beyond his control: the result of divine “affinities” he had to heed. My feminist impulse is to dismiss his understanding of “affinities” as a weak man’s excuse to leave a woman behind, but I do think there’s something to this.

Jack White and I have similar affinities beyond the quintessentially American music he makes. Detroit. Baseball. Historic preservation. Buying vintage things you don’t need. Interior decorating. I am drawn to this man. As I age with artists who are aging with me, it’s wonderful to see music makers like White move past the thrashing chaos that is all of our 20s and find a comfortable place of pure purpose. I appreciate that he seems to only become more himself, which is a hard thing to do in this world and not everyone gets to do it. And his latest album, Entering Heaven Alive, speaks to this evolution as an artist.

He’s created an album that feels a little like Pop Pop sitting by the fire, imparting his wisdom and gratitude to the family that surrounds him in the house he built. It’s true to his catalog but not a repetitive rehashing of where he’s been before, and it’s exactly what we all want from Jack White. Maybe, for some artists, evolution is more like an infinity loop wherein all your affinities intertwine and create something so unique it feels like it’s existed forever. Like an acorn that falls from a tree, roots in the ground, and then grows until it’s surrounded by Oakly kin.

We’re all drawn to people for one reason or another. Most of the time, we have to responsibly ignore these affinities. But music is a safe space and I am (platonically) in love with Jack White and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Deep Dive: The Bones of J.R. Jones, “Ones To Keep Close”

One of my favorite new albums comes by way of the Catskills, courtesy of Jonathan Robert Linaberry.  Linaberry, aka The Bones of J.R. Jones, feels like a man out of time, which is not to say his time is coming. Rather, it’s a premonition that he would be at home in several eras come before us. Had we been wandering past an old juke joint in upstate New York in 1954, this music and this man would likely have poured forth from it.

Ones To Keep Close is a mixture of American heritage as we like to think of it: soulful, somewhat sorrowful and blue collar, bare-handed but determined. “Sinner’s Song” has an Irish folk backbone, and “Please” draws on gospel structures as effectively as a Baptist preacher. One of my favorites hits us three tracks in. “Slow Down” has a remarkably seductive pace, starting out with just J.R. and his guitar until the base and the ivories kick in at 1:00, followed by haunting backup vocals a few seconds later. This is a slow burn, fired by a grunged guitar solo at 2:20 that slowly fades to nothing. J.R. Jones has America in his bones.

“Slow Down” slides into one of the strongest songs on the album, “Know My Name.” This song is just so smooth, traditional at heart but edged by funk, it’s begging to be showcased on an indie soundtrack. And “Die Young,” where J.R. slows down with melancholy softness, is the perfect compliment to the summer that’s surely coming. It’s been a long time since I’ve loved an album this purely, and I’m so glad to have found it now. ‘Tis truly one to keep close.