The Black Keys’ Attack & Release suggests that the blues-rock duo was finding its guitar-and-drums lineup constraining as they and
producer Danger Mouse gave their songs a full-band treatment. The Keys’ Dan Auerbach further explored a broader musical palate on Keep it Hid, his solo album from earlier this year. From the dust-bowl troubadour treatment of “Trouble Ways a Ton” to the garage-rock “Whispered Words (Pretty Words)” to the string-sweetened “When the Night Comes,” Auerbach finds the sounds each song needs, unconstrained by any formal constraints such as band lineup, image, or members’ preferences. Black Keys fans will make the connection between Keep it Hid and the band; Auerbach’s guitar is still front and center, and he’s still exploring the blues, but it’s a broader range of blues, some of which are all energy and rhythm, while other recall the Band in their haunted melodies. All major blues cities are represented, but the album never feels like there’s a checklist behind the scenes driving each decision. Instead, Keep it Hid says Auerbach has enough good ideas and good taste to make each song stand up in its own way.
Dan Auerbach, Justin Townes Earle and Jessica Lea Mayfield play the House of Blues November 18.