A Black Key gets back to his roots, with help from family and a brand-new band.
[BLUES ROCK] The Black Keys aren't breaking up, they're just seeing other people. "I really just wanted to make music with other musicians," Keys multi-instrumentalist Dan Auerbach says via telephone from his home in Akron, Ohio. "Not that I felt dissatisfied playing with [the Black Keys' Patrick Carney] or anything—it's just good and healthy to play music with other people."
Auerbach's debut solo record, Keep It Hid, returns to the raw, blues-influenced rock that put the Keys on the map. But the roots of that sound go deeper: Auerbach grew up in a creative household where music was a part of everyday life. His father, Charles, exposed him to blues records at an early age and encouraged him to sing in public. Though Auerbach senior doesn't play an instrument, he has written lyrics for numerous songs, including the haunting "Whispered Words (Pretty Lies)," featured on Keep It Hid. Keeping things in the family, Dan Auerbach's uncle, James Quine, plays guitar on a handful of the new album's tracks.
Keep It Hid feels like old Black Keys records backed by a full band. Auerbach's poignant, emotionally charged lyrics and precise guitar work shine on songs like the unforgiving "Heart Broken, In Disrepair." Auerbach self-recorded the record at his home studio, Akron Analog, and it emits a sincerity and genuineness that 2008 Black Keys' release Attack Release lacked. Helping the record's organic feel is Auerbach's recording technique—keeping his musicians together in one room, where they play it right or live with mistakes in the mix. "There's nothing more real than that," Auerbach says about recording live. "The greatest rock-'n'-roll records, soul records, blues records—for me, anyway—all have that sound."
Taking the "solo" project on the road is a more complicated prospect. "There's going to be two drummers, an organ, two guitars, bass and harmonies," Auerbach explains. Though he admits he is a little nervous about embarking on his first solo tour, anticipation counteracts his nerves. "It's all so new," he says. But it's also warmly familiar.
SEE IT: Dan Auerbach plays Wednesday, March 11, at Wonder Ballroom. 9 pm. $18 advance, $20 day of show. All ages.