Good God, it’s nice to hear Jack White with a competent drummer behind him. The Raconteurs’ second album, Consolers of the Lonely, is not dominated by The White Stripes’ front man, although it does have his mark on it. Still, Consolers is clearly a band effort

Consolers of the Lonely is a good album, which has some really great melodies, a lot of heavy riffs, some real classy horn and piano parts and some incredible storytelling lyrics. None of the tracks get dull, even the nearly six-minute “Carolina Drama.” To his credit though, White reins in his characteristic flamboyance throughout the album, choosing instead to spotlight his ear-piercing solos and effects. “Pull This Blanket Off” is a really mellow number, full of brilliant minutiae that make the song come alive and shows off the depth the band’s musicians are capable of constructing – something which is often hidden under White’s screeching The White Stripes’-ish distortion.

Many of the album’s melodies do seem like they could have come from the The White Stripes’ outtakes, but “Many Shades of Black” has a melody that sounds like it is straight from a Broadway rock musical. It’s wonderfully catchy, and it would not be surprising in the slightest if it gets released as a single. The opening title track has a heavy riff that makes it a contender for release as a single as well.

In general, Consolers of the Lonely is a fun listen all the way through, without any real low points, and although the high points aren’t breathtaking, nearly every song has something to enjoy – from the piano intro of “You Don’t Understand Me” to the horns on “The Switch and the Spur.”

Brendan Benson’s vocals are smart, and his voice is aptly suited to the range of material on the album. He often throws in a few slight vocal twists, toying with the melodies of some songs, and displaying impressive vocal control, even towards the end of his vocal phrases.

The rest of the band, with Jack Lawrence on bass and Patrick Keeler behind the drums, plays well, but for the most part stays out of the way and lets White and Benson take charge. The production does get a bit curious, sometimes burying vocal harmonies, hiding acoustic guitars, and often putting “What’s Goin’ On”-like background noises of people mingling and talking throughout the album. But overall, this is a coherent, creative effort that provides plenty of entertaining, engaging listening for lovers of Jack White, lovers of the Raconteurs or just lovers of good, old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll.

4 stars