Dan Auerbach, Keep It Hid (Nonesuch, 2009)

Ohio native Dan Auerbach first came to prominence as the guitarist and singer for the duo The Black Keys -- think of them as a more down and dirty version of The White Stripes. While the band still exists, Auerbach took some time off from the group to record his first solo album Keep It Hid.

Freed from the relatively inflexible two instrument format of The Black Keys, Auerbach aims for sonic diversity on Keep It Hid. The album is bookended by a pair of fairly mellow tracks, "Trouble Weighs a Ton" and "Goin' Home." On the ballad "When the Night Comes," Auerbach sings soulfully above an acoustic guitar and a mellotron. Still, Auerbach specializes in harder-edged material, and for the most part the rockers dominate the album. Three songs in particular stick out. The biggest musical statement comes early on, with the second song "I Want Some More." The raunchy vocals, crunching guitar, and reggae organ combine to make this a great single. Otherwise, "My Last Mistake" is solid retro power pop, and the blistering "Street Walkin'" sounds like late sixties proto-metal over a Bo Diddley beat.

Dan Auerbach has an affinity for vacuum tube amplifiers and analog recording equipment, so there's a good reason why his guitar sounds like a blast from the past. It's a risky approach, but Auerbach does a nice job of taking something old and making it sound fresh and vital. Keep It Hid is worth a look, with a bunch of decent songs and a couple of really good ones.

Overall grade: B+

reviewed by Scott

A live performance of "Street Walkin'."

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