The legend embraces gospel and rock in equal measure
Describing the character he takes on to perform ‘Connected By Love’ – the lead single from his first proper new album in four years – Jack White makes comparisons to being shunted through a pair of curtains and onto a Broadway stage: “All of a sudden,” he said to Rolling Stone, “you are told: ‘Your name is this.’”
It’s certainly a disarming new guise for White, who opens the track with throbs of unexpected, menacing synth. That said, his trademark howl (“Relieve me!”, he yelps) soon confirms we’re still dealing with the same old White Stripes man.
As we enter the chorus, we’re back into even more familiar territory: in comes amped-up, bluesy organ, a gentle rhythm section swaying in 6/8 time, and later on a couple of Nashville’s iconic gospel group, the McCrary Sisters, on rousing backing vocals.
White expertly pivots through it all – plus an eye-watering guitar solo – before stripping it down to a basic piano line and then bringing everything back in again for a climactic, if rather staid, finale. There’s less of the thrill or the bite here that might be expected of a typical Jack White lead single – but perhaps that’s the point.
Experimental B-side ‘Respect Commander’ – very much not lead-single material, but also on the album – is a timely reminder that White remains the guitar-god we all know and love. Between noodly instrumentals that smash together snarling guitar lines and heavy drums – and even some blasts of bombastic synth – White’s vocals riff on blues material: “I cannot protect my heart from her command“. Here, there’s bite and thrill in spades. And as the first proper taste of White’s third solo album ‘Boarding House Reach’, these two tracks seem to be promising a broader palette for White than ever before.