"It's all just soul music," Dan Auerbach, front man and guitarist of The Black Keys, said as he described his first solo work outside of the popular "two-man stomp" along with drummer Patrick Carney (press release).
For the Akron, Ohio native, Keep It Hid represents both a departure and a slight reworking of the down-to-earth blues-rock he helped rejuvenate and bring back to its former heights and possibly to the pseudo-mainstream.
In some ways, the album is simply a mellower, less harsh version of The Black Keys sound, as with "The Prowl" and the gritty title track, to which Auerbach professes that "I just wanted to do the things I loved." If part of that means modestly deviating from his main musical sound, then that's what he's going to do.
Part of that also means embracing the other genres that he loves like blues folk (the opening acoustic "Trouble Weighs A Ton"), R&B (the heartbreaking "Real Desire"), and even psychedelic rock (the very laid-back "Mean Monsoon").
Auerbach even channels a little Sean Hayes in a couple of his more soulful indie tracks like "Whispered Words" and "Goin' Home." He co-wrote "Whispered Words" with his dad, and the result is a depressing reality check that something so soothing can end up being so hurtful: "I hear words, in my head / Each and every thing she ever said / Every sign, every line / Tricked me into falling one more time."
The album's swansong "Goin' Home" is very touching in its simplicity, rightfully reminding everyone that everything will be all right in the end: "I want the sun to hit my face / Through oak trees in the open lot / Forget about the things you want / Be thankful for what all you got."
The album's highlight is the very moving duet with Jessica Lea Mayfield "When The Night Comes" that doesn't hit you right away, but instead slowly builds to enchant and later woo you. Keep It Hid can be odd at times when songs inconsistency jump from Auerbach's familiar blues-rock sound to his unfamiliar folk and soul sound and vice versa. Overall, the debut solo LP adds another facet to his already grand musical prowess and range.