Jack White‘s first album of 2022, Fear of the Dawn, was all about freak flags, guitar heroics and oddball collaborations. The second one, Entering Heaven Alive, is mostly aimed at fans of White’s more conventional and laid-back side. It makes for a complementary piece in a way but also a less exciting outing, depending on your preference.
These mostly acoustic tracks have as much to do with White’s roots as the electric pieces found on Fear of the Dawn. Maybe even more so. After all, the straightest line to his influences isn’t the garage rockers that seemed to be the core of the White Stripes but the ’30s bluesmen whose ragged and acoustic style has more in common with White’s guitar playing than the Electric Prunes do.
Entering Heaven Alive doesn’t throw any surprises the way Fear of the Dawn and 2018’s Boarding House Reach did. Even the sonic bombs that were all over his 2012 solo debut Blunderbuss and 2014’s Lazaretto are in short supply here. The album recalls 2016’s Acoustic Recordings 1998–2016 compilation more than any proper White LP, either solo or band-related. That places Entering Heaven Alive among White’s most intimate records, but that personal touch loses some appeal about midway through.
In opener “A Tip From You to Me,” he sings, “I don’t need nobody’s help now anymore,” an apparent shuffling of intentions from an artist who’s thrived on collaborations over the years. But White doesn’t mean to be taken at face value; the album is often an exercise in contradictions as it is in complements. Just two songs later, he’s pleading “Help Me Along.” And two songs after that, he dusts off an electric guitar for the more Dawn-appropriate “I’ve Got You Surrounded (With My Love).” At times, it’s almost as if White wasn’t sure what to do with the songs that didn’t quite fit on Fear of the Dawn, so he put them here.
The standout tracks are the relatively straight and simple ones: “Love Is Selfish,” “If I Die Tomorrow,” “Please God, Don’t Tell Anyone.” White eventually brings it all full circle to the earlier album, closing Entering Heaven Alive with an unplugged version of “Taking Me Back,” the song that opened Fear of the Dawn in electric fury. Here, it resembles an Old West romp with rolling piano and zipping fiddle goading White to a Django Reinhard-inspired acoustic guitar solo that even fans of his plugged-in material can get behind.
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