Third Man Records vinyl exclusives, Part 28: Jack White acoustic in Idaho and Alaska

The 28th set of exclusive vinyl items offered to Platinum members of Third Man Records’ Vault service was mailed out to the members in June and July of 2016. For those who are unaware, Third Man Records is the label owned by Jack White, who is the leader of the White Stripes, the Raconteurs, and the Dead Weather, and is now a solo artist as well. The Vault service promises to deliver exclusive vinyl-only records (one full-length album and one 7” single) to its Platinum members every three months.

The twenty-eighth Vault package contained a 2-LP set and a DVD, featuring live acoustic concerts from Jack White performed in Idaho and Alaska in April of 2015. As a bonus item, it contained a travelogue photo book. These items were packaged together in a box with the title Acoustic Tour 2015.

These two shows were part of an acoustic tour that White undertook for the purpose of performing in the only five U.S. states in which he had never performed previously (Wyoming and North and South Dakota were the other three states). He was backed by Dominic Davis (upright bass), Fats Kaplan (fiddle and mandolin), and Lillie Mae Rische (fiddle, mandolin, and acoustic guitar). Each of these shows was announced only hours beforehand, and tickets were only $3 apiece! Only ribbon microphones were used for these performances, and no amplifiers were used at all. Both concerts were well-performed, presenting many of White’s songs in a new and different way.

The double-LP Acoustic In Idaho (or “Live From Idaho”, as it is titled on the LP’s center labels) is pressed in “icy Idaho blue vinyl”. It captures White’s acoustic concert at the Egyptian Theater in Boise. This concert has a strong Nashville country flavor, even more so than White’s two recent solo albums. White scales down his vocal delivery to fit the small acoustic setting; Rische sings harmony vocals throughout the set. The set begins with three songs selected from Lazaretto, the acoustic reworkings of which set the gentle and countrified tone of the concert. Most of the selections from the White Stripes oeuvre retain their blues roots with a more rustic sound, although this version of “Hotel Yorba” sounds so southern that you may forget that it’s about a hotel in Detroit (even after White tells the funny story behind the song at the end of Side A). On the other hand, “You’ve Got Her In Your Pocket” and “The Same Boy You’ve Always Known” have simple folk arrangements, and are apparently performed solo by Jack with only an acoustic guitar. Some of the best tracks on this album are the selections that are the most unexpected, such as the non-album B-side “Inaccessible Mystery”, as well as “You Know That I Know”, White’s interpretation of an unrecorded Hank Williams composition. The Raconteurs’ “Carolina Drama” has an authentic Southern Gothic feeling in this setting. The show concludes with a graceful performance of Leadbelly’s “Goodnight, Irene”.

The 77-minute DVD Acoustic In Alaska gives a visual presentation of White’s acoustic concert at the Wendy Williamson Auditorium in Anchorage. It was filmed by Brad Holland, the former drummer of Whirlwind Heat. Performed two days before the Idaho show, this concert has the same aesthetic and a similar set list. It was the first of the five shows on the acoustic tour, and (as we are informed in the beginning) White’s first-ever all-acoustic performance. Much of it was filmed in striking black-and-white, which complements the show’s old-fashioned nature. (Some camera angles are in color, showing a blue-lit stage; the back-and-forth editing is sometimes distracting). Musically, this concert is the equal of the Idaho show. There are three songs here which were not performed at the Idaho show, each with a detailed spoken-word introduction about its origin: one more track from Lazaretto (“Entitlement”), another White Stripes number (“Offend In Every Way”), and another non-album B-side (“Machine Gun Silhouette”). All three of these songs are well suited for the acoustic environment. Another notable difference: “The Same Boy You’ve Always Known” is here given a full band arrangement, albeit an understated one.

The bonus book Pictures From Unknown States contains 44 pages of photographs – mostly black-and-white – taken on the acoustic tour by David James Swanson, the former Whirlwind Heat vocalist. Most of the pictures are shots of White and company either onstage or backstage, with an occasional outdoor photo from the road; the best of those were taken at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. A photo taken from the window of a plane over or near Alaska is another standout; that photo also appears inside the LP's gatefold cover. Some of the pictures taken inside the venues suggest that those spaces were the same approximate size of many movie theatres. The package also contains stylish 8 X 10 photographic prints of two of Swanson’s photos from the book.

A note for fellow vinyl aficionados: the practice of engraving text in the dead wax, or the runout grooves between the sticker and the last track’s grooves, is present on these items. The double-LP has “Things got heated” carved on Side A, “Bullet-proof glass is not a great way to make friends” carved in Side B, “You got time for one more?” carved on Side C, and “I appreciate you coming here on short notice” carved on Side D.

Jack White “Acoustic Tour 2015” (box set)

Jack White “Acoustic In Idaho” (Third Man TMR-380) 2016

Track Listing:

1. Just One Drink
2. Temporary Ground
3. Alone In My Home
4. Love Interruption
5. Hotel Yorba
6. You Know That I Know
7. Do
8. Sugar Never Tasted So Good
9. Inaccessible Mystery
10. We’re Going To Be Friends
11. Blunderbuss
12. A Martyr For My Love For You
13. Carolina Drama
14. You’ve Got Her In Your Pocket
15. The Same Boy You’ve Always Known
16. Goodnight, Irene

Jack White “Acoustic In Alaska” (Third Man DVD TMR-380) 2016

Track Listing:

1. Intro
2. Just One Drink
3. Temporary Ground
4. Love Interruption
5. Machine Gun Silhouette
6. Offend in Every Way
7. The Same Boy You’ve Always Known
8. Alone in My Home
9. You Know That I Know
10. We’re Going to Be Friends
11. Entitlement
12. Carolina Drama


13. You’ve Got Her in Your Pocket
14. A Martyr For My Love For You
15. Goodnight, Irene

Bonus book (Third Man Books TMB-011):

Swanson, David James. Pictures From Unknown States. Nashville: Third Man Books, 2016.

Reviews of other Third Man Vault packages