Keep It Hid

Dan Auerbach

Nonesuch, 2009

REVIEW BY: Melanie Love


Keep It Hid marks the debut solo album for The Black Keys’ vocalist/guitarist Dan Auerbach, released on the heels of the Keys’ latest and critically acclaimed disc, April’s Attack & Release. Akron-based Auerbach is nothing short of prolific, though, engineering this album himself in his Akron Analog studios with the aid of guitarist (and Auerbach’s uncle) James Quine and Jessica Lea Mayfield. Recorded using mainly vintage equipment, this record forgoes studio flourishes and dubbing, giving the songs here a rootsy blues sound that is traditional yet expansive.

“Trouble Weighs A Ton” launches things off in a fairly deceptive way, being one of the few subdued, almost melancholy cuts in a sprawl of chunky-riff rockers. Backed by mellow strains of acoustic guitar and Auerbach’s world-weary vocals, this is a quietly lovely way to ease into the material here, and the gentle mood is recovered every so often: check out “When The Night Comes” with its shivering instrumentation and Mayfield’s subtle harmonies or closer “Goin’ Home,” where a jaunty banjo and slide guitar accompanies his soft acoustics and the mood of restlessness as the album drifts off toward its close.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Auerbach’s more muted introspective moments make for excellent contrast with the gritty blues-rock he does so well, all rich, stomping riffs overlaid with his evocative voice. He shifts seamlessly from a deep growl to match “Heartbroken, In Repair”’s primal groove to earnestness on “Whispered Words,” while “I Want Some More” fuzzes his vocals in slick distortion to reflect the relentless drums and spacey guitar soloing.

Still, the sheer variety of sound here never sounds disjointed or flighty, anchored well by Auerbach’s guitar chops and his synthesizing image of the music. It doesn’t really feel like he’s slipping into a retread of classic sound either, aping old riffs; instead, he seems to just be channeling the energy of it, putting his own stamp on the material.

Every song explores something new, whether it’s the down-and-dirty groove of “The Prowl” or “Mean Monsoon”’s sinister swagger with its slithery electric guitars and Auerbach’s escalating wail. Meanwhile, My Last Mistake” is tricked out with a jangly, almost singalong beat and penultimate cut “Street Walkin’” somehow makes hand-claps foreboding, at least when they’re paired with roiling, slow-burning guitar riffs and halted stabs of drums.

On Keep It Hid, Dan Auerbach has crafted a solid set of material that is brilliantly propulsive without any need for extra frills. Whether he’s fleshing out The Black Keys’ distinctive sound or working on his own, Auerbach clearly has a groove all his own.

Rating: B+

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© 2009 Melanie Love and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Nonesuch, and is used for informational purposes only.