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Benson's Slow Burner

In the past few years Jack White has racked up some pretty interesting collaborations. A month or so ago he could be seen alongside Jimmy Page and The Edge in It Might Get Loud, a documentary about the enduring power of the guitar and the concept of the guitar hero. A couple of years back he produced a fine album for country legend Loretta Lynn. He even indulged his interest in bluegrass and acting with an appearance in the late Anthony Minghella's 2003 epic Cold Mountain.

On a more bizarre level, White recently teamed up with BP Fallon to produce and play on the latter's, er, debut single, and, with the release of a White Stripes live album on the horizon, he still found time to play drums with side-project The Dead Weather. However, there are many who regard another side-project as being the most interesting of his career, with some fans even preferring it to The White Stripes, and that's The Raconteurs.

Unlike the rhythm-and-blues looseness which characterises the White Stripes -- in a live context they too often sound like musicians jamming in a rehearsal room while they're waiting for someone to turn up -- The Raconteurs are a much more streamlined unit, with a great deal of that down to White's chief ally in the project: Brendan Benson. It's Benson's power-pop chops which drive The Raconteurs' best-known song Steady As She Goes, and, while it would take a tone-deaf toddler not to notice its similarity to Joe Jackson's Is She Really Going Out With Him?, it still stands as a cracking tune.

Brendan Benson's association with White goes back a way, with the pair sharing Michigan roots and the White Stripes covering one of Benson's songs, Good to Me, on the B-side of their Seven Nation Army single. Benson first came to the attention of discerning power-pop fans in 1996 with the release of the fine One Mississippi album. This was a sparkling collection of concise, tuneful songs which showed off Benson's love of melody and power chords which reminded one of The Who. The fact that former Jellyfish man Jason Falkner -- an outstanding artist in his own right and a regular collaborator with our own Pugwash -- lent a hand only added to the record's credibility, although sales didn't reflect the album's quality.

2002's Lapalco, which contained Good to Me, was equally assured but suffered a similar commercial fate as did The Alternative to Love. Then The Raconteurs came along to provide a larger platform for Benson. In addition to showcasing material from his outstanding back catalogue, Benson has a new album to promote, My Old, Familiar Friend, which contains songs marking him out as a classic pop-rock songwriter. The opening track A Whole Lot Better is one of the best of his career and marries the aforementioned Who influences with skyscraping psychedelic pop harmonies and an instrumental crunch. Brendan Benson in a nutshell.

Brendan Benson plays Vicar Street on Tuesday


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