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Keep It Hid – Dan Auerbach

Nonesuch

Fear not Black Keys fans. Guitarist/vocalist Dan Auerbach’s solo album doesn’t stray very far from the blues rock aesthetic that he developed with his band mate, Patrick Carney. His electronica album or tribute to the lute may be in store some other day. It’s just not here. While numbers such as “I Want Some More,” “When I Left the Room” and “Street Walkin’” sound like restrained versions of unreleased Black Keys tracks, Auerbach, nonetheless, stretches out in ways subtle (the Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ simmer and release during “Mean Monsoon”) and the not-so-subtle (the wistful and string-drenched atmosphere on “When the Night Comes” and the pure pop Nick Lowe-esqe “My Last Mistake”).

Keep It Hid was recorded in a relaxed manner at Auerbach’s Akron studio with family and friends — his uncle (and Tom Waits collaborator) Ralph contributes vocals and electric guitar while fellow Ohioans Jessica Lea Mayfield adds vocals and Bob Cesare plays drums on “Whispered Words,” a song written by Auerbach’s father. The set up of extra vocals and instrumentation makes the solo material sound not only a little less solitary but the logical next step after the added textures heard on the last Keys’s album, Attack & Release. With Danger Mouse at the production helm on that record it updated the raw blues of the duo. In the case of “Keep It Hid” there’s a natural quality to the proceedings, as if the musicians could set up in your living room and recreate the 14 tracks without diluting an ounce of its potency.

The album starts with the lonesome country strains of “Trouble Weighs a Ton” and proceeds to move through a combination of gritty blues, touches of psychedelia and pop before resting softly with a dose of country whimsy on “Goin’ Home.” Normally, you expect Auerbach, in his role as a member of the Black Keys, to go out with a clap of thunder. Here it’s a calming end yet far from a whimper; another facet to what’s turning out to be a lengthy career rather than a smash-bang and a disappearing act.

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