The darnedest thing happened between the release of Blanche’s What This Town Needs EP and the intended launch of its full-length, Little Amber Bottles. The band’s label, V2, vanished, leaving behind a spate of woebegone antecedents of Jack White, including this Southern Gothic-steeped Detroit quintet. Who knows what the label’s dissolution means for Blanche, but for us it means that the brief but formidable What This Town Needs will have to serve as an appetizer a little longer.
Blanche is the creation of thatch-haired singer-songwriter Dan John Miller, an odd duck with a good ear. He has cultivated an askew familial country-and-western ensemble of musicians that let their musical talent establish their quirkiness rather than the other way around. Miller and his harmonizing wife, Tracee Mae, play up their tent revival atmospherics in all facets of their being, clearly evidenced by the live track “Someday . . .,” which closes the EP. The performance portends gloom yet flirts with vitality, in no small part provided by the assured banjo picking of Little Jack Lawrence (the Greenhornes, the Raconteurs).
Influences abound, but to their enormous credit, Blanche doesn’t lean on them so heavily as to invite obvious comparisons. As much as is possible in the world of alternative country, the band is distinct. The title track is as dynamic as the Stones cover “Child of the Moon” is languid, and yet both songs are cut from the same cloth. Ultimately, What This Town Needs serves as a good bridge between Blanche’s full-length albums, and it’s unfortunate that the far side of this bridge is currently shrouded in fog.