The Black Keys – guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney – were childhood friends who grew apart in high school. While Patrick opened a primitive recording studio in his basement, Dan discovered the music of Mississippi hill country bluesman, Junior Kimbrough. Eventually both dropped out of school to pursue music. Dan booked studio time in Patrick’s basement, and when his band didn’t show up, Patrick got behind the drums, and together they recorded what was to become their first album as The Black Keys at the age of 18. Even at a young age they showed incredible potential in their covers of classic blues songs as well as the Beatles’ “She Said,” adding their own grizzled, bluesy-rock sound.
With each successive album that they release, their sound becomes more refined. With the release of their fourth studio album, “Magic Potion,” they come through with their strongest and most focused work to date.
“Magic Potion” is simply amazing. Only in their mid-twenties, these two boys from Akron, Ohio are well beyond their years in terms of both song-writing and the execution of their music. The Black Keys’ sound is part of the current wave of bluesy garage rock music coming from the American Midwest. However their music has more in common with the textured distortion of Jimi Hendrix’s bluesier songs than to the White Stripes.
They play aggressively, wailing on the guitar and slamming the drumkit. Upon first listen some may be surprised to find that the virtuoso guitar effects and thumping drums are produced by only two musicians.
The new album begins with a stomping blues riff before crescendoing into their standout second track “Your Touch.” They slow the pace down but don’t stop rocking on their third track, “You’re The One.” They take their time picking the pace back up through “Just A Little Heat” and “Give Your Heart Away,” but then leave your eardrums in tatters with the two best songs on the album, “Strange Desire” and “Modern Times.” All eleven tracks on “Magic Potion” are phenomenal examples of modern blues music.
“Magic Potion” was released September 12 on Nonesuch Records, with the hopes of better distribution through the label’s affiliation with NPR. In addition to a larger record label and exposure to more listeners, the Black Keys were personally selected by Thom Yorke to open for Radiohead on their brief summer tour of the United States this year.
The Black Keys are currently playing largely sold out shows on the west coast before touring in Europe and returning to the east coast to finish out their tour in November and December.