Unvarnished, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts first studio record in more than seven years, breaks new lyrical ground for the pioneering female rocker while remaining true to the veracious sound that Jett is known for. Much of the album is a reflection on the human experience delving into subjects ranging from the tenacity of the human spirit in the face of disaster to the cultural phenomenon of over-sharing.
Unvarnished, which Jett has called “a real band album,” features several collaborations from Jett and the Blackhearts, in particular, guitarist Dougie Needles and drummer Thommy Price, and of course, Jett’s long time songwriting partner and producer, Kenny Laguna. Jett also went outside the home team for a couple of stellar collaborators. “Soulmates To Strangers” was written with Against Me! singer Laura Jane Grace, with whom Jett first became acquainted while on the 2006 Warped Tour. Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters co-wrote the single “Any Weather.” Amazingly, the single features just the two musicians performing the song, with Jett on vocals and rhythm guitar, and Dave playing every other instrument that is on the track.
“Make It Back,” is about the spirit that Jett saw first hand in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. With her neighbors being some of the hardest hit, not to mention Jett being displaced in the wake of the storm, she was able to see “this spirit that was really beautiful come out in all the people, and people helping each other.”
Among the more lighthearted commentaries is a meditation on one of today’s more deplorable trends: over-sharing. Jett says, “TMI” concerns “everybody throwing every little detail out there” and is both cautionary and observational of this new reality. Delving into life’s most universal experiences, Jett touches on the global condition while relating to her own life. Unvarnishedis inspired, as always, by Jett’s overriding philosophy: rock ‘n’ roll is about “a certain integrity…just being true to your own self.” That is apparent in both Jett’s career and her continuance, and that’s the unvarnished truth.