The Black Keys

It’s unfortunate that I have to record some more passings in this latest spate of rockers who have moved on. But I want to mention three: Signe Anderson, who was the lead female singer in Jefferson Airplane before Grace Slick (second Airplane death after Paul Kantner); Maurice White, co-founder of Earth, Wind and Fire. And Dan Hicks. I did a post on Hicks back in the beginning of this blog so I’ll let that speak for itself. Airplane, Earth, Wind and Fire, both on my  “to-post” list. Sigh. As the old blues song says, death don’t have no mercy in this land. 

I mentioned The Black Keys previously in my earlier ‘Current blues(y)‘ post. I called it that because the four bands I featured (Keys, Alabama Shakes, Radio Moscow, White Stripes) all seemed to have a blues sensibility without necessarily being straight-up 12-bar blues groups. Which is fine with me. I think they’re reinventing the blues for a new generation.

As someone who grew up with the sacrosanct, two-guitar-bass-drum type of band, it’s interesting to me that there are several groups (Keys, White Stripes, Royal Blood) that are two-piece. I can see (and hear) that you get a lot of power that way.

But I think you miss some color, say the occasional harmonica, sax or piano solo. (I think the Keys might augment the band while on tour). Regardless, these two guys (who seem like unlikely rock stars) do pack a punch. Everybody, I think, knows “Gold on the Ceiling,” yeah? Nice riff:

I read that the reason these guys became a two-man band in the first place is because Dan Auerbach the guitarist, wanted to record a demo. Drummer Patrick Carney agreed to provide basement and recording equipment if Auerbach provided the band. He arranged the band, nobody else showed up, the two of them recorded alone and said, I guess, fuck ’em.

They’ve been building a following the old fashioned way ever since with relentless touring, putting out albums, building a fan base and licensing their songs for commercial use. “I’ll Be Your Man,” has a nice garage-y sound and overdriven vocal. It’s from their first album which also has a cover of The Beatles’ “She Said She Said.”

I mentioned before that these guys seemed like unlikely rock stars. I say this in part because I saw them on CBS television’s Sunday Morning show. They brought their tour bus back to visit their parents in Akron, Ohio. And they seemed like a couple of regular, if a bit nerdy, guys. Of Auerbach, Rolling Stone said his, “denim-on-denim outfit says “parking-lot attendant” as much as it does “rock star”… and he carries himself with an almost willful lack of flamboyance.”

Anyway, originally from the 2004 Rubber Factory album, here’s a live version of “Aeroplane Blues.” (Does Auerbach ever play a solo? Haven’t been through their whole catalogue. Just wondering.):

I don’t really follow bands any more like I used to in my twenties and thirties. If I did, this would doubtless be a band I’d seek out and whose records I’d buy on a more or less regular basis.

Rock may not be the dominant force in music these days, but it ain’t dead. I’m glad guys like this are not only out there doing it but also finding their audience. And I’m hoping their audience is finding it’s way back to some of the original blues players.