Every so often, you run across a collection that opens up an entirely new way to think about an artist. Jack White's new, 26-track retrospective, which focuses on his unplugged, less raucous songs, does just that. The unreleased songs, album tracks and B-sides that make up Jack White Acoustic Recordings, 1998-2016 offer a fresh window onto the work of the creative, prolific rock musician.
These short songs show White's delightfully scrambled take on American roots music. He starts out in familiar places — the blues, folk, and bluegrass — but rarely stays put. His tales of small-time hustlers are delivered with a distinct irreverence.
Sometimes White's embracing tradition; at other times, he's mocking it. Almost always, what comes across is a great sense of playfulness and improvisation. Listen to a bunch of these ripping, effortless-sounding songs in a row, and you might pick up on one of White's secrets: He's not afraid to try stuff, not afraid to fail. That makes all the difference.
Jack White Acoustic Recordings, 1998-2016, is available now on Third Man/Columbia Records.