The Black Keys Play “Tighten Up”

The Black Keys Tighten UpListen to this track by Akron Ohio blues-rock twosome The Black Keys. It’s “Tighten Up”, a single as taken from their 2010 album Brothers.

The single was twinned with another hit in “Howlin’ For You”, hearkening back to the days of the double A-side. Both songs evoke the spirit of one of the band’s greatest influences, that being Howlin’ Wolf. Even the album design mirrored Wolf’s 1969 album The Howlin’ Wolf Album on which the self-referential words “This Is Howlin’ Wolf’s New Album. He doesn’t like it. He didn’t like his electric guitar at first either”. Even if that statement about his view of his own record was true, it showed that the blues was changing by the latter years of Wolf’s career, mixing with rock music and psychedelia.

Even if this song hearkens back to what Wolf helped to establish –  echoey and subterranean blues that is coloured with an edge of desperation and menace – it also demonstrates that the form is not stagnant by the 21st century, either. It still had plenty of space to grow, with The Black Keys certainly playing their part to get the music back on mainstream radio and on video screens too. With this, another aspect comes to the fore; that this is not mere musical curation of sounds from days gone by. It’s a part of a living tradition that also has a place in the pop charts. Read more

The Black Keys Play ‘Your Touch’

Here’s a clip of indie-blues rock two-piece champeens The Black Keys.  It’s their song “Your Touch” as taken from their 2006 record Magic Potion.  Warning: This clip involves a lot of gun play, murder, ghosts, unabashed lip synching, and not a bass player in sight, good people.  This is the blues as it was meant to be , haunted by the spirits of Hound Dog Taylor, also a bass aversonist of some renown, and of course Junior Kimbrough, a man who the ‘Keys covered heavily in their earlier career.  Yet, this isn’t exactly blues, is it?

One thing about the Black Keys – Dan Auerbach on vocals and guitar, and Patrick Carney on drums –  is that even if it’s hard to deny that they’re playing music that is heavily indebted to the blues, they are positioning the blues not so much as roots music interpreted by an indie band so much as a framework for another kind of modern indie guitar rock. In the Black Keys world, if rock music is the baby sired by the blues, than the sire still has something to teach the mouthy little brat after all.

The skill it takes to pull off that stylistic inversion is not to be compared, even if the knee jerk reaction is to draw a parallel with the White Stripes. Read more