Jack White, “Acoustic Recordings 1998-2016” (Third Man/Columbia)
Jack White’s “Acoustic Recordings 1998-2016” anthologizes his unplugged material from the White Stripes to the Raconteurs and beyond, the unvarnished tunes of a top-notch songwriter.
Album versions, remixes and the previously unreleased “City Lights” add up to an engaging 26-track chronological collection which cries out for an electric companion to complete the portrait of rock’s most modern traditionalist.
“City Lights” got its start during sessions for the White Stripes’ 2005 record “Get Behind Me Satan” and was completed this year without Meg White. Appearing at nearly the mid-point of this 2-CD compilation, it’s a worthy addition to the canon, a fragile, vulnerable vocal gauging his sanity and paying homage to his “surest and safest bet.”
“Honey, We Can’t Afford to Look This Cheap” has John Prine-like subject matter, the song’s title an apt summary of its mood, while curio “Love Is the Truth,” written for a Coca-Cola ad shown just once, removes the Memphis Horns from the mix, can’t camouflage the clichéd lyrics and is over in a jiffy.
Quality attractions include “Never Far Away” from the “Cold Mountain” soundtrack, the stripped-down murder ballad “Carolina Drama,” the spirit of the Zombies on “Apple Blossom” and the Alex Chilton vibe of “We’re Going to Be Friends.”
Fans of Jack White will know the words and hum the tunes — others can enjoy this diverse bouquet from a great talent and rest their ears until, hopefully, the loud & wild version comes along.