Say what you will about Jack White's music (I appreciate the impeccable influences he wears on his sleeve), he is perhaps the greatest preservationist of analog-music culture under the age of 50 today.
If you value music's physical media formats, you have to respect White's unwavering dedication to keeping them alive and clicking (and popping). He puts his money—a chunk of which he earned by writing Beyoncé's "Don't Hurt Yourself"—where his Califone turntable is.
White is playing WaMu Theater on August 13. But by this point, the catalyst behind garage-rock revivalists the White Stripes, pop purists the Raconteurs, and blooz-rock mediocrities Dead Weather is less interesting for his art than he is for his philanthropy, his entrepreneurship, and his role as this century's Alan Lomax via his Third Man Records empire.
Now mostly a bankable, chameleonic solo artist, White may have come up through the Motor City's cutthroat rock scene, gotten in some fights (see Von Bondies' Jason Stollsteimer's bruised eye), engaged in beefs with Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney and his ex-wife/former bandmate Meg White, and trashed veganism, but he's gone on to become a paragon of rock-star do-gooding.
White has contributed to charities such as Farm Aid, Greenpeace, and Keep a Child Alive while saving venerable Detroit venue Masonic Temple from foreclosure by donating $142,000. In addition, he opened a vinyl-pressing plant adjacent to his Third Man retail shop in that city's gentrifying Cass Corridor area. The musician—who now calls Nashville home—has become an unlikely job creator for a place that needs all of the tax revenue it can get.
Yes, White is famous for being a retro-rocker and dyed-in-the-wool blues scholar, with archival releases by Charley Patton, Blind Willie McTell, and the Mississippi Sheiks in the Third Man catalog. But White also knows what's up with hiphop's vanguard, as his label issued Live at Third Man Records by Seattle innovators Shabazz Palaces in 2016. Further, a live album by former Seattle musician/comedian Reggie Watts proves that White is not as humorless as his public persona would lead you to believe.
And White's reverence for musical history sometimes extends to him boosting the careers of country and rockabilly legends such as Loretta Lynn and Wanda Jackson, respectively. Third Man is wildly eclectic; it's the only record label to release records by Elvis Presley and Willie Nelson as well as those by noise desperados Wolf Eyes and Mudhoney. Miraculously, White even got Motown's Berry Gordy to relinquish control of a few titles by Marvin Gaye, the Supremes, and others.
White's new Boarding House Reach album is a solid addition to his voluminous discography, revealing a greater emphasis on keyboards and blatantly danceable rhythms. This impulse culminates with "Corporation," a track that lifts the beat from Jimi Hendrix Experience's "Little Miss Lover" and augments it with funky clavinet riffs and manic bongos. "I'm gonna buy up all the empty lots and start one giant farm. Who's with me?" White declaims, and it's the equivalent of his philanthropic urges come to vivid musical life.