Horehound on his Trail
Jack White’s Blues
Stop: blues-rock is only shorthand, accurate as musicology but not giving the full essence of the words and music. A ghostly blues moan haunts many of the songs on the Dead Weather's debut album, Horehound (released on White's own Third Man label). And everything assertively rocks. But the reverb-drenched music, anchored by White's spooky drum play, belongs to a line begun in the 1930s by Robert Johnson and continued in more recent years by Jeffrey Lee Pierce and Nick Cave. The Dead Weather is an eerie assault, a careening journey down to the dark side drawn by searing guitars and the acid-edged, slatternly vocal of Alison Mosshart (from the Kills).
Incessant and dynamically restless, Horehound pushes the needle into the red zone at every turn and reverberates with an old-time, unhomogenized urgency resulting from White's vintage instruments, amps and microphones as much as the performance itself. There are cinematic digressions: the Latino western guitars of "Rocking Horse" suggest a lost track from a forgotten '60s film. And while the original songs are relentless and absorbing, the show stopper is Bob Dylan's enigmatic "New Pony," reimagined around a monster metallic riff reminiscent of the early Jeff Beck Group at its heaviest. Like the Uriah Heep organ on "I Cut Like a Buffalo," some of Horehound is close to '70s rock-but not too close. The music is deeply rooted yet entirely contemporary.