The Black Keys – Thickfreakness

The Black Keys

I’m beginning to think Fat Possum has some sort of divining rod to find the absolutely best blues musicians. Not only have they released albums from older bluesmen like R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough and soulful crooner (and recent Grammy winner) Solomon Burke, they’ve also been finding a whole host of younger blues musicians like Bob Log III and 20 Miles who are keeping the genre alive by reinterpreting it in their own unique way. Among these younger artists is the Ohio duo the Black Keys. Thickfreakness is their second release and first on the Fat Possum label.
The Black Keys consist of Dan Auerbach on guitar and vocals and Patrick Carney on drums. There is no bass, but the Keys don’t need it as Auerbach supplies all the low notes they could ever possibly need. In fact, for a two-piece, the thick sound these guys create is second to none. Their sound is definitely strongly based in the blues, but they add a lot of fuzzed out rock n’ roll into the mix for an absolutely dirty blend of styles. The Black Keys create extremely organic music, as evidenced by the recording process for Thickfreakness. Find a house in a seamy neighborhood, sequester yourselves there for 14 hours straight, and turn out 11 of the most outstanding tracks to grace an album in a long time.
With no hesitation, it’s easy to say that the songs on Thickfreakness are all near masterpieces. The duo pays homage to those who have paved the way for them by covering Junior Kimbrough’s “Everywhere I Go” and Richard Berry’s “Have Love Will Travel.” Other tracks like “Hard Row” and “No Trust” simply ooze with the very heart and soul of Auerbach and Carney. You can tell this isn’t an act for these guys – it’s a way of life. Even while paving their own musical path, the Black Keys have a distinctly retro sound, and the album is complete with little hisses and such caught in the recording. Dan Auerbach’s vocals are also a central aspect of Thickfreakness. Though he and Carney are still in their early 20s, Auerbach’s voice has the kind of character that most singers search a lifetime for. His vocals offer just the right about of well-seasoned soul to their songs and it all sounds so effortless.
Even though Thickfreakness only rounds out at less than 40 minutes long, the entire thing is a heady experience. This is the kind of album that will stand the test of time so well you’ll be listening to it 20 or 30 years from now and it will still sound superb. I’m positive that when people have finally forgotten about other guitar/drum duos like the White Stripes, the Black Keys will still be out there doing their thing.