There were, broadly, two ways of assessing Meg White when she was in The White Stripes. The more romantic view was that, despite her clearly limited technical abilities, there was something uniquely energising and primal to her playing that completed The White Stripes, and without that they were just another boring blues band. The more practical view had her arriving on the drum stool by accident of relationship (be it romantic or familial), with mastermind Jack keeping her there to look cool and aloof at the cost of having to water down his extraordinary guitar skills with frankly abject drumming. If the former is true, then ‘Blunderbuss’ should be a husk of a record, proficient but dry. If it’s the latter, then to hell with the Meg myth.

Unfortunately for Ms White, ‘Blunderbuss’ is a stormer. Unexpectedly, though, it leaves a lot of the White Stripes’ influences behind; here, White is seldom the guitar hero of old – far more of the record recalls the swing and shuffle of his newly adopted hometown of Nashville than it does the grit and dirt of Detroit. Indeed, several of the album’s highlights – the dangerously intense ‘Love Interruption’, the lilting country waltz title track and ‘Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy’, with its twinkling banjos and bar-room pianos – could’ve come straight from the Country Music Hall of Fame. That’s not to say White has totally abandoned his love of shredding: his spiky, tangy soloing is all over ‘Bluderbuss’, but in more restrained, concentrated bursts, nowhere more effective than on closing track ‘Take Me With You’, which begins as a doe-eyed piano stroll before evoking Jimmy Page over some (ironically) magnificent drumming. The combination is a successful one, and is repeated again and again across the record, leaving ‘Blunderbuss’ among the best records to carry White’s name.

By Sam Walton

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