As soon as Benjamin Booker's eponymous 2014 debut kicks in with a skittish guitar run and a primal garage beat, it's clear the guitarist -- a native of Tampa Bay who spent time in New Orleans before heading back to Florida -- is unapologetic for the debt he owes to Jack White. Like the Black Keys and Gary Clark, Jr. before him, Booker revels in gnarly guitar skronk, pushing the all-natural fuzz to the forefront -- lessons perhaps learned from Jack White, but Booker distinguishes himself from the pack by adding a bit of swing and boogie to the raw roar. Where Clark, Jr. is a bit of an old-fashioned guitar hero, slipping into a bit of slickness on his 2012 major-label debut Blak and Blu, Booker enjoys every ragged edge. This is readily apparent on the punky thrashers -- including "Violent Shiver," which opens the album with a jolt, as well as "Old Hearts" -- but also evident on such spacy, open-ended ballads as "I Thought I Heard You Screaming," the full-tilt boogie of "Chippewa," and sunbaked crawl of "Spoon Out My Eyeballs," which apart from its violent title could be mistaken for forgotten slice of '60s soul. Some of this bracing rawness is due to producer Andrija Tokic, who chose to keep things loud and disjointed (it's the opposite of his carefully tailored work for the Alabama Shakes), but it also suits Booker's spirit. Raised on rock, both classic and punk, as well as blues, Booker has no tidy set of influences and prefers to celebrate the grey areas and intense mess of the 21st century, and that blurred, boundless enthusiasm makes Benjamin Booker one hell of a debut.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine