Dan Auerbach – Keep it Hid

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Dan Auerbach - Keep it Hid

As the chief singer and songwriter of The Black Keys, Dan Auerbach strides progressive steps on his first album as a solo outfit. And although he is more than just half of the Keys (having written over 90% of their material,) on Keep it Hid, he showcases a varied assault of music and impressively, it all sounds remarkably well.

On his main band, the Ohio native and counterpart, Patrick Carney, create ram-shackle, sludge-filled blues that sounds retro and innovative at the same time. But what Auerbach has done on Keep it Hid is provide enough assortment to keep even the fans longing for jam sessions tuned in. The last Black Keys album was produced by Danger Mouse and rather than bringing in someone else to produce, Auerbach allows his own personal style to flow throughout. “Mean Monsoon” is built around a Bo Diddley (R.I.P.) guitar melody that transcends and snakes its way around the singing and before ending with a snarling guitar solo, Auerbach’s voice sounds magnificent; presented in a masterful fashion, he pours it on.

Fans are in for an exciting set of songs that convey a distinct depth and substance to Auerbach. He is an accomplished songwriter and musician and he rightly sets the tone with the country-roots of album opener, “Trouble Weighs a Ton.” It’s as if Will Oldham walked in to lay down a track, supported only by his acoustic guitar and a hushed back-up vocal, Auerbach allows the music to swell with his earnest force.

The volume never reaches the high decibels the Keys are known for but what he lacks in dynamics, Auerbach more than makes up in variation. Seen live, he is always immersed in his music and it translates well on Keep it Hid. A song like “Street Walkin’” sounds as if it was recorded live, with only the use of three mics and an amp; this allows Auerbach to wail away on his guitar. The blues stomp of “I Want Some More” careens back and forth to a psychedelic swamp and the major bridge is a stunning piece of music. And then there is the blisteringly furious guitar solo on the title track, which is, to be succinct, dazzling.

But one of the sweetest moments has to be the acoustically-driven, string-flourishing, “When the Night Comes.” At the heart of the music is Auerbach’s honest songwriting; never posing and always direct, he sounds right at home when he sings, “You don’t have to be afraid.” Whether or not he is singing to an amiable love, to his beloved child, or even to his best friend, it all sounds utterly fantastic. Transversely, a song like “Heartbroken, In Disrepair,” follows the same train of thought as the aforementioned but is retold in a drastically different manner. Rich in reverb and echo, Auerbach re-tells how lost he feels and the music is a fitting complement with hazy production and spectral vocals.

Truth be told, this isn’t a life-changing listen and it isn’t going to be the highest rated album of the year. Some will cut it down for petty reasons but for a real music fan—the type that enjoys seeing their favorite artists take risks only to hit the big come up—it will be a nice change of pace. After a set of consistently solid and consistent-sounding albums with The Black Keys, Auerbach has proven he is a viable musician. Not only is Keep it Hid a very good album but it’s an album that contrary to popular belief, should not be ignored.