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Rock siphoned directly
from the blues well

The Black Keys

The Black Keys - Rubber Factory
(Fat Possum Records)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Jan. 18, 2005

Review by Tony Bonyata

On The Black Keys' third full-length release, Rubber Factory, duo Dan Auerbach (guitars / vocals) and Patrick Carney (drummer) continue in a similar fashion as they did on their last album Thickfreakness - incorporating gutbucket moans, harrowing slide guitar and the woeful sounds of 1930s black southern sharecroppers into early '70s rock just before it got too big for its own britches and hit the arenas. Auerbach and Carnes distill only the rawest of rock elements from artists like Bad Company, early Foghat, Johnny Winter, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin - only theirs is a decidedly more stripped-down, raw sound that's grittier, garagey and, quite often, more immediate.
Considering the influence the blues had on musicians during rock & roll's infancy, what The Black Keys are offering up is hardly a musical revelation. But while devout blues fans often find rock music missing the true soul that lies deep within authentic blues, there are also those admirers of rock who feel that the blues is nothing more than an old-timers' one-trick pony lacking in scope. The Black Keys, however, help bridge that gap between the two camps by delivering a unique, passionate sound that should appeal to purists on both sides of the fence.
With dynamics no less fierce than Led Zeppelin on a good night, the Akron, Ohio-based duo tear through songs such as the oil-stained rocker "Grown So Ugly," "Aeroplane Blues" and "Till I Get My Way" that, with fuzzed-out guitars and thundering drums, burst from the speakers like a sound punch in the gut. Further rock-based numbers such as "10 A.M. Automatic" and "Girl Is On My Mind" also add just enough pop sense to appeal to those who tune into 'classic rock' radio. And between Carney's heavy-hitting percussions (that, at times, flex the same muscle as the late-John Bonham in his heyday) and Auerbach's gruff, gravely howls (that sound hauntingly similar to Paul Rodgers when he was fronting Free), along with his scorching leads that heavily pays homage to Jimi Hendrix, it's hard to fathom that all of this ruckus is generated from just two people.
When they're not popping the clutch into overdrive, the twosome get a whole lot bluesier on the stripped down "When The Lights Go Out," "Stack Shot Billy" and "Keep Me." They even manage to toss in a little backwoods southern drawl to the cocky strut of "Act Nice And Gentle."
While Mick & Keith, Page & Plant and Clapton & Beck all dipped their cups into the blues well and synthesized it into their own things, it's always refreshing to hear a couple of white kids delivering the real deal straight from the spigot.

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