Add Dan Auerbach’s name to the list of members of blues-rock duos who go big on solo albums.
While it runs with the same attention to detail and musical traditions as his work with the Black Keys, Auerbach’s new disc Keep It Hid punches up sonic contrasts and amasses more instruments and collaborators.
Take dynamics. When sequencing the album, Auerbach wanted songs to butt against one another. The track list set up like an album-focused LP from the ’60s or early ’70s. As a result, a rocker like I Want Some More unfolds with help from its relationship to predecessor Trouble Weights a Ton.
“I like records that have an ebb and flow — that act like scenes in a movie. I like it when albums start with quiet pieces, to get the music centred and the speakers balanced,” he said. “(Album opener) Trouble Weights a Ton is quieter than other tracks, so you need to turn up your speakers to listen, which then makes the next song louder when it hits.”
Auerbach sees the solo album as an extension of the Keys. Rather than he and drummer Patrick Carney working out songs, he turned to a bigger group, including the uncle who taught him to play guitar and singer Jessica Lea Mayfield. Speaking of a rationale that echoes Jack White’s shift from the White Stripes to the Ranconteurs, the idea was to loosen the Keys’ self-imposed restrictions.
“I’m not trying to reinvent myself, I just want to work with other people … (and do things) there isn’t an opportunity to do with the Black Keys,” said Auerbach.
Like family stories passed around at reunions, Auerbach sees music as transferring ideas between generations, reinterpreted at each juncture but consistently referencing the past. For example, Whispered Words, which was written by his father, features guitar, drums, and an upright bass playing live as an homage to Motown.
“Music is grammar, language, and it’s passed on, generation to generation,” he said. “We played Whispered Words live in the studio, and cut it to mono stereo. I love that, and it’s not something the Black Keys could do. We record live, but not live to mono … in the Motown recording style.”