One of the most impressive things about the new album from one half of the Black Keys and producer extraordinaire Dan Auerbach is how effortless it sounds.
I guess that shouldn’t come as a surprise; after all, Auerbach has been involved with music on this level in some form for close to two decades now.
The newest release, Waiting on a Song, which was released June 2, sounds so different from all of previous works, including past solo efforts and last year’s side project release with The Arcs.
Gone are all the heavily distorted, drenched in blues riffs, replaced by something that takes its cues from Nashville itself.
It really sounds more like Auerbach was inspired by the country singer-songwriter sound from Music City decades past, and married that with his own skills.
Which would be impressive in its own right, but that only tells half of the tale, as it does not do any justice to the number of high powered guests stars the record boasts.
The tell-tale twang of legendary guitarist Duane Eddy can be instantly recognized on several tracks, including “Livin’ in Sin,” and “King of a One Horse Town,” while noted songwriter John Prine helped on the title track. Dire Straits lead guitarist Mark Knopfler lends his skills on “Shine on Me,” the album’s first single.
It makes sense that someone with the kind of connections Auerbach has would be able to bring in these kinds of people, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive the way it comes together.
One of the things that I was also a little surprised by is the way the album seems to be a lot more upbeat and fun than some of Auerbach’s previous works.
As soon as the riff begins on “Waiting on a Song,” you know this is going to be something different entirely.
The song, which is about how difficult it can be to deal with writer’s block, has a breezy feel to it, like you can just imagine some friends picking on a porch enjoying a nice Tennessee summer day with a few cold ones – a feeling that never really goes away.
Auerbach’s talented guitar playing is, of course, on display, but he changes things up vocally, forgoing his traditional gruff sound for something on the higher end of his spectrum.
It meshes well with the overall sound he’s going for, and his clean vocals sound really nice.
Auerbach slows things way down on “Never in My Wildest Dreams,” a good old-fashioned slow love song that features some seriously old school picking that in a lot of ways reminds me of Ray LaMontagne.
There are two types of summer albums in my mind. The first is a more beachy, fun in the sun and water kind of sound, something to listen to when you’re doing outdoors weekend stuff.
This is not that kind of album.
The other is a more blue-collar style, something to listen to while sweating at work or driving for several hours to go see family or old friends.
This is that kind of album.
Despite only clocking in at a little more than half-an-hour, I imagine this is going to be a recurring feature in my driving playlists.
I would recommend this album if New Nashville is a little too much for you and you yearn for something a little more old school, and obviously it’s recommend to fans of the Black Keys.