A few weeks ago, I was chatting with my friend Vance Powell, who had just finished recording Jack White’s new solo project, Blunderbuss. Vance shared some pretty cool stories about live tracking, analog machines, and killer Nashville musicians. And then he told me something that blew me away: White took the mixes to Bob Ludwig and asked him to master withoutdynamics processing.
In this era of loudness wars and “competitive” mixing, it’s a bold move to forego compression. But people like Jack White are leading a movement that shifts the focus from “what does this sound like on the radio?” to “what does this sound like to the person who wants to hear my music?” They’re inviting the listener to embrace the dynamics, the detail, the subtle nuances of the song. It’s cultivating a long-term relationship in which the music becomes more revealing with each listen, rather than more fatiguing.
This isn’t a wholesale endorsement of any particular recording method. It’s just a reminder that production should never be a barrier to the song. And this concept doesn’t have to be at odds with commercial goals—Blunderbuss debuted at Number One.
We’ll likely never go back to the days when fans rushed out to buy a record the day it came out, invited their friends over, sat together in front of the stereo, and just listened. But projects like Blunderbuss are a move in the right direction.