Junior blues legends Kimbrough and RL Burnside have long inspired singer / guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney, also known as The Black Keys. They provided the source material for the opening tracks of their 2002 debut. The big go up, while EP 2008 Chulahoma: The Songs of Junior Kimbrough wore his influence on his sleeve. Literally.
Fast forward nearly 20 years and the group’s latest studio album, their 10e, sees them return to their roots with a set list that brings together covers of heavy-hitter blues from Kimbrough, Burnside and other legendary figures. The âCrawling Kingsnakeâ opener charts the course 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, as well as The Doors’ best-forgotten lumpen pantomime theaters. Unsurprisingly, the Black Keys’ take leans more into the first, especially in Auerbach’s plaintive and moving vocal delivery.
The groove, here and throughout the album, (“Stay All Night”, “Do The Romp” and “Walk With Me” in particular) is endowed with an irresistible shuffle – light fillings that announce, accentuate and underline. It works hand in hand with beautifully weighted guitar licks to bring the thud and flow of rock and roll to the root of the blues.
This, of course, is nothing new. Muddy Waters may not have had the time of day Electric mud, his 1968 experience in the psychedelic blues, but his mix of genres produced a sound capable of sinking into the head and heart of the listener with incredible immediacy. The Black Keys swim in the same swamp and, therefore, Delta Kream is a very easy album to love. It’s also, in part, due to an easy-going, spontaneous feel – great room reverberation, a few false starts, the feeling that players are picking up the pieces and falling into place.
And that feeling is the key. A blues standards album is a difficult thing to achieve. It is the truth that we must recognize here. Don’t feel right and it doesn’t matter if you’ve got the chops – you’re going to sound like a crappy Creedence cover band playing a provincial All Bar One.
In fact, Delta Kream sounds more like a Black Keys record than very polished 2019 Let’s dance. After spending much of the preparation for this album trying to convince the world that, contrary to rumor, they don’t hate each other, singer-guitarist Auerbach and Carney followed up with a record that feels like an ode to friendships. forged. by a love of music.