On his solo debut, Black Keys singer and guitarist Dan Auerbach takes a simple approach: "I just wanted to do the things I loved." For Auerbach, that means combining elements of bluegrass a la the Stanley Brothers, mournful country balladry, Memphis-style R&B, fuzzed-out psychedelic rock and low-down blues on this collection of 14 original tunes, which Auerbach self-produced and recorded with friends and family at his newly built studio, Akron Analog. "It's all just soul music," he says, and Keep It Hid is soulful indeed. As a songwriter, Auerbach likes to prowl the dark end of the street; his gritty, impassioned vocals lend dramatic heft to these tales of romantic betrayal and suspicious minds. For this Akron, Ohio native, his state has always been blue. Auerbach, like a more roots-oriented version of Tom Waits, mixes black humor with genuine poignancy in his lyrics and concocts some artfully oddball arrangements. He likes to crank it up on tracks like "I Want Some More" and the Bo Diddley beat-driven "Street Walkin'." But he isn't afraid to keep things gentler, more intimate on songs like the aching, acoustic-blues opener, "Trouble Weighs A Ton," and the unabashedly sweet "When the Night Comes," a duet with protégé Jessica Lea Mayfield, possessed of a voice as full of character as Auerbach's own (and a fellow Ohioan who will be familiar to Black Keys fans from "Things Ain't Like They Used To Be," the soulful climactic track of the duo's 2008 Nonesuch disc, Attack and Release). "My Last Mistake," despite its morose words, has the happy pop swing of a classic Sir Douglas Quintet track, with just the rollicking organ missing.
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