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Black Keys spread "Delta Kream" on latest album, 5 Things to Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Wednesday, May 26, 2021

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The Black Keys are no strangers to the blues -- specially the raw and rustic variety that comes from Mississippi Hill Country.

The region has exacted a strong influence on Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney since they were youths, and even before they started playing music together. It's no accident that the Black Keys' 2002 debut album, "The Big Come Up," included songs by Junior Kimbrough, R.L. Burnside and Muddy Waters, touchstones the duo has maintained throughout its career.

The group returns to those roots again on the new "Delta Kream," an ad hoc 11-track album comprised entirely of songs originally done by Kimbrough, Burnside, John Lee Hooker, Mississippi Fred McDowell and others. It's the Black Keys at its core, and a welcome surprise amidst Auerbach and Carney's prodigious ventures outside the group...

Auerbach, 42, says by phone from Nashville that the "Delta Kream" session was unplanned. He was finishing an album with Louisiana singer-songwriter Robert Finley during December of 2019, for which he was using Hill Country veterans Kenny Brown and Eric Deaton. "I'd never recorded with Kenny. I called Pat up and said, 'Are you free tomorrow? We should play with Kenny. It would be fun.' So Pat cleared his schedule and came over. It was just, like, one day and an afternoon. It was this fun, spontaneous moment."

The tapes were put into storage, and Auerbach acknowledges that, "we'd done it so spontaneously we didn't think about it too much. We were just doing it to have fun. We weren't thinking we were making a record or anything. Then we went back and listened to it, and it had something special about it. That wasn't too long ago, and now here it is."

While the duo has ties to all of the artists represented on "Delta Kream," Auerbach says the repertoire was off-the-cuff and improvised in the studio. "We were calling out songs names. Kenny would help remind me of the riff and the moves and we'd cut it. We did one or two takes of each song, then we'd move on. I hadn't played any of these songs for years, hadn't thought about playing them. I mean, (McDowell's) 'Louise' is one of my favorite songs, but I don't know if I've ever actually played it."

Auerbach was introduced to blues of all variety by a musician uncle as well as his father, who maintained "a great record collection." He also took many trips to Mississippi to hear the music firsthand. "There's something magical about that Hill Country blues. I love blues music, but I love the raw stuff -- the one-man bands, the small, little electric outlets. I loved Lightnin' Hopkins, Fred McDowell, all that percussive, rhythmic, one-chord droney kind of thing that would start slow and gradually speed up and build in intensity -- which is what the Black Keys tried to do when we started."

Auerbach and Carney have no plans for the next Black keys project. "We're hoping maybe it will sneak up on us," the former says. Meanwhile, he's been busy with his Easy Eye Sound label and studio, working on albums for Yola and others and completing posthumous works for Tony Joe White and James Gang co-founder Glenn Schwartz. "It's been impossible to tour, but I haven't stopped working a single day, really," Auerbach says. "I've had things to do. Right when COVID hit I had a few albums I needed to mix, then eventually we were able to start doing sessions, little by little. We've been keeping pretty busy, pretty steadily."

The Black Keys perform a virtual concert at 8 p.m. Thursday, May 27 from the Blue Front Cafe in Nashville. Tickets via Spotify.live.

Web Site: www.Spotify.live

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