"If We Can't Trust the Doctors..." is the first and so far only album by the Detroit-based band Blanche. Their fan-base is almost exclusively made up of White Stripes fans, because they have not broke outside of this word-of-mouth exchange.
However, they should. Blanche is fronted by Dan Miller (otherwise known as "the tall skinny nervous guy in 'Walk the Line'") and his wife, Tracee(bass). Supporting these two are the drummer Lisa 'jaybird' Jannon on drums, Feeny on pedal-steel guitar and Patch Boyle on banjo and autoharp (Patch was later replaced by "Little" Jack Lawrence of the Greenhornes). Dan Miller draws you into his dark back-woods world with soothing vocals and hopeless lyrics of garbage picking, lost love, and passing summers. The music of Blanche can be described as two ghosts walking in Arkansas woods at midnight. Tracee's vocals are emotionless and soft, barely there. Lisa's drumming is stripped down and minimal, not unlike Meg White's, but better. The banjo adds to the apparant country vibe of Blanche (the good kind), heard in songs like "Someday...", "Another Lost Summer", and "Do You Trust Me?".
Now, on to the meat of the album. Blanche are not a technically amazing band. There will be no guitar, drum, or bass solos, except in the opening track, "Who's To Say" (played by Jack White). But this does not make for bad music. One of the standout tracks is a cover of the Gun Club's "Jack On Fire". It is forceful and even frightening at parts (Tracee's little girl vocals declaring that she will "*** you until you die"). The pounding rythym adds to the sexuality of the song, it's a song where you do not want to find sex, but it finds you. Another great effort is the opening track "Who's to Say". This song is purely simple and lovely, but with sad lyrics and a wistful melody. Dan sings of a woman who he loves continuously, despite the fact that he knows that she will never feel the same. The most powerful moment in this song is when he calls out "Who's to say the way you look at him is truly love?". The lyrics are simple, but filled with desperation as the hopeless lover tries to make sense of his stance on life.
The title of the album comes from the 4th track, "Superstition", which asks "don't you know it's bad luck to be superstitious?", which is blunt lyrical irony at it's best. "Superstition" is a restless, shuffling, country track which fills the listner with unease through hospital imagery and Miller's wailing.
The album calms down with "Bluebird", a nice duet between Dan and Tracee. The song doesn't hold the uneasyness of the rest of the album, and keeps you from falling into complete hopelessness, letting you know that even godless ghostly people can find love.
My two favorite tracks on "If We Can't Trust the Doctors..." are "Another Lost Summer" and "Someday". The latter holds the album's (and the band's) unofficial motto of "someday, you will find out", whispered by Tracee over a stormy banjo riff. We don't know what we will find out, and Blanche doesn't either. They're only messengers to the world looking to the future. "Another Lost Summer" is a forceful and poetic track, which could be played at the end of a movie. It begins with a continous calming banjo plucking along with Dan's quiet vocals and ends with pounding guitar and Miller yelling, wondering where all the time went and if he can get it back.
Don't let the country label on Blanche turn you away. They're a fantastic band with great melodies and intruiging lyrics. They show what can happen if you don't restrict yourself to certain genres and just bring out great music in the way that they know how. Which just happens to involve banjos and pedal-steel guitars.
"Jack On Fire"
"Another Lost Summer"
"Who's to Say