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Album Review: The Raconteurs - Help Us Stranger

It’s been eleven years, thereabouts, since a new Raconteurs record. With members committed to other projects, bands, or record shops and here we are with their junior record, and merely picking up where they left off, with a touch of, “Hey we’re still here.”

Help Us Stranger kicks off with members Jack White and Brendan Benson harmonizing on “Bored and Razed,” “…Well, I’m Detroit born and raised/but these days, I’m living with another.” a song that tips their proverbial cap to the Detroit roots that reign in their veins. The album may lead with the cap tip to Detroit but from there it ventures into simply: Rock n’ Roll. I won’t go track by track however, my ears perked when I heard what I thought to be a nod to Skynyrd with the song “Somedays (I Don’t Feel Like Trying).” This record has elements of those classic rock bands mixed with what I can only describe as Detroit Fuzz. 

They do a Raconteurs job of blurring and masking all of that. Because quite simply they are playing rock n’ roll, and they are doing it well. From start to finish there are no frills or lace. There is dirt and rust, harmonicas, pianos, and violins. It builds within songs that go to a crunch or simply just build only to bring you back down and hop on the fuzz coaster. Done in ways that don’t come across as pretentious, but rather just the opposite. If you are wondering, well hey what about them lyrically? Well, all I can really do is tell you to listen. Lyrically they are adventurous meaning they are telling stories, what those stories are and where they go are up to you to listen and crack the code for yourself. Harmonizing on a rock record is awesome to hear, and yet again they do it well. Especially when you take into consideration the break between records. 

Ten years away from each other in some capacity and then for this record to happen organically through getting together with no intentions can be felt. Separation only makes the heart grow fonder, or however that saying goes and these four dudes in forty-one minutes proved that. Brendan Benson, Patrick Keeler, Jack Lawrence, and Jack White put together a record that is, for me, just a simple rock n’ roll record. Not simple in its technicality but in its sound. Hearing this record if I had not known who they were I would say they must have like ten records out, the fact that there are only three and this being the third says something. I’m not sure what, maybe it’s something like we’ve just been too busy to pick up where we left off, and here we are again “Hello.” I’d say regardless, add Help Us Strangerto your collection especially if you are a fan of rock n’ roll. 

We, here in Cincinnati, are also lucky that these guys are going to be in town on Saturday night at The Taft Theatre. I mean, do your rock n’ roll heart a favor and check out the record and or the show. Cheers, and happy listening.