sun 14/07/2024

Album: The Black Keys – Delta Kream | reviews, news & interviews

Album: The Black Keys – Delta Kream

Album: The Black Keys – Delta Kream

The blues-rock duo return to their roots for an off-the-cuff covers album

The Keys create an ode to friendship

Blues legends Junior Kimbrough and RL Burnside have long provided inspiration for singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney, otherwise known as The Black Keys. They provided source material for the opening tracks of their 2002 debut The Big Come Up, while the 2008 EP Chulahoma: The Songs of Junior Kimbrough wore its influence on its sleeve. Literally.

Fast forward nearly 20 years and the band’s latest studio album, their 10th, sees them going back to their roots with a set list that brings together cover versions of blues heavy-hitters by Kimbrough, Burnside and other legendary figures. Opener “Crawling Kingsnake” maps out the road ahead, and sets the tone for much of what’s to come. There have been many versions over the years: Kimbrough, naturally, John Lee Hooker, plus the best-forgotten lumpen pantomime theatrics of The Doors. Unsurprisingly, The Black Keys’ take leans more into the former, particularly in Auerbach’s plaintive and soulful vocal delivery.

The groove, here and throughout the album, (“Stay All Night”, “Do The Romp” and “Walk With Me” in particular) is possessed of an irresistible shuffle – light fills that announce, accentuate and underscore. It works hand-in-hand with beautifully weighted guitar licks to bring the thump and flow of rock and roll to the blues root.

This, of course, is nothing new. Muddy Waters may not have had the time of day for Electric Mud, his 1968 experiment in psychedelic blues, but his blending of genres produced a sound capable of sinking hooks into the listener’s head and heart with an incredible immediacy. The Black Keys are swimming in the same swamp and, consequently, Delta Kream is a very easy album to like. That’s also, in part, down to an easy-going, off-the-cuff feel throughout – great room reverb, a few false starts, a sense of players picking up the pieces and falling into place.

And that feel is key. An album of blues standards is a difficult thing to pull off. That’s the truth we need to acknowledge here. Get the feel wrong and it doesn’t matter if you’ve got the chops – you’re going to sound like a shitty Creedence covers band playing a provincial All Bar One.

In fact, Delta Kream sounds more like a Black Keys record than 2019’s highly polished Let’s Rock. After spending much of the build-up to that album trying to convince the world that, contrary to rumour, they don’t hate each other, singer-guitarist Auerbach and Carney have followed up with a record that feels like an ode to friendships forged through a love of music.


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