CD Review of Keep It Hid by Dan Auerbach
Dan Auerbach: Keep It Hid
Recommended if you like
The Black Keys, The White Stripes, My Morning Jacket
Label
Nonesuch
Dan Auerbach: Keep It Hid

Reviewed by Ed Murray

I
t’s hard to understand how the solo debut from the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach won’t make fans and non-fans alike wonder why Auerbach’s main band doesn’t take a less musically myopic approach to the garage-blues-rock niche it’s carved out. Just like Jack White’s Raconteurs forays give listeners a taste of what the White Stripes would sound like as a full band and not a guitar-drum two-piece, Keep It Hid finds the signature elements of the Black Keys – namely, Auerbach’s guitar and voice – taken to new heights (or depths), and fleshed out by a heck of a lot more instrumentation than a typical Black Keys release.

Keep It Hid was produced and engineered by Auerbach at his own studio, and features him playing a variety of instruments, including drums, guitar, percussion, and keyboards. Many of Auerbach’s friends and family play on the album, including his uncle James Quine, who contributes vocal harmony and electric guitar on the track "Street Walkin." Most songs sound like there’s a full band behind Auerbach, whether or not that’s actually the case. Other musicians include fellow Ohioans Jessica Lea Mayfield, who sings on the track "When the Night Comes," and Bob Cesare, who plays drums on "Whispered Words," a song originally written by Auerbach’s father. Like most Black Keys records, Keep It Hid sounds live and organic, just spontaneous enough, and richly textured.

Dan Auerbach

There’s also plenty of exploration through areas you certainly don’t find on a Black Keys record. "Trouble Weighs a Ton" and "Goin\' Home" are sparse, acoustic numbers (the former with fantastic vocal harmonies, the latter with mandolin), "Heartbroken, In Disrepair," is updated psychedelia. Elsewhere, you’ll find soul, R&B, folk, a hint of gospel…and yet, the whole thing doesn’t sound too dissimilar from a Black Keys outing (it’s still Auerbach’s voice, guitar and overall tone, after all).

After their first four albums, you’d think the Black Keys – Auerbach and bandmate/drummer Patrick Carney – would have explored every possible nuance of the two-piece guitar-drum lineup and dirty blues oeuvre. But 2008’s Attack & Release took the formula to newer, more soulful and groovier places, and the album debuted on the Billboard Top 200 chart at #14, making it the Black Keys’ highest position to date. Bringing in Gnarls Barkley’s Danger Mouse to produce probably didn’t hurt, and certainly introduced a new dynamic to the signature Black Keys sound.

Keep It Hid, though, goes one better, in that it’s just as much a progression of Auerbach’s songwriting and arranging skills, which now seem to have been kept somewhat in check by the Black Keys’, er, limitations.

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