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In 'Acoustic Recordings,' Jack White Winks At Tradition

The new collection <em>Jack White Acoustic Recordings, 1998-2016</em> includes unreleased songs, B-sides and album tracks.
Jo McCaughey
/
Courtesy of the artist
The new collection Jack White Acoustic Recordings, 1998-2016 includes unreleased songs, B-sides and album tracks.

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.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tom Moon
Tom Moon has been writing about pop, rock, jazz, blues, hip-hop and the music of the world since 1983.