BLACK KEYS – ” Delta Kream “

Posted: May 12, 2021 in Classic Albums, MUSIC
Tags: , ,
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The Black Keys are paying homage to the Mississippi hill country blues acts they grew up on with a new covers album titled, Delta KreamThe 11-track collection is set for release on May 14th.

Ohio’s Black Keys are a rare modern-day example of something a lot more common in the ’60s and early ’70s. They are a blues outfit that became a popular rock group. The Rolling Stones were the first to tread that path and opened countless young listeners with their early covers of Blues giants like Howlin’ WolfMuddy Waters, and the like. The Yardbirds came next, and while they probably never quite shook their blues band image, they managed to have quite a few hits and, of course, gave the world guitar greats Eric ClaptonJeff Beck and Jimmy Page. The Peter Green-led Fleetwood Mac followed – most people these days have no concept of the Mac’s roots in blues – while back in the States, where of course the blues was born, The Doors, who began life as a blues covers band, and the likes of Steve Miller and Boz Scaggs, were able to transcend their roots in a way that neither the Butterfield Blues Band nor Canned Heat were quite able too. 

For a decade before they hit the top of the charts worldwide with “Lonely Boy”, “Gold on The Ceiling” and their superb El Camino album, the Black Keys cut their teeth playing a heavy form of garage blues that was informed by the North Mississippi Hill country blues of R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough as much as it was by the primal mid-western garage rock of the Stooges. By the time of their second album, “Thickfreakness”, they were signed to North Mississippi’s Fat Possum Records, the label that brought the music of Burnside and Kimbrough to the fore and helped shape a new blues consciousness that shared much with punk. 

Indeed Burnside, who had been active since the ’60s around Mississippi and Memphis, found fame via an album recorded in 1996 with the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. That album, “A Ass Pocket of Whiskey“, which followed his first Fat Possum album, “Too Bad Jim“, took Burnside’s raw blues to new extremes. Still, they were extremes that his label mate and fellow North Mississippi bluesman, Junior Kimbrough, didn’t need the involvement of any wise-ass New York punks to reach. Kimbrough’s snaky, hypnotic, and loose blues was so raw that the Black Keys covered him on their first two albums, and when Iggy reformed the Stooges in the new century, the first tracks they released were on Fat Possum’s 2005 Junior Kimbrough tribute album “Sunday Nights the Songs Of Junior Kimbrough“.

Fat Possum’s Kimbrough covers record, of course, included the Black Keys. And when the Black Keys were leaving the label to sign to Nonesuch Records, they said goodbye with an entire EP of Kimbrough covers named Chulahoma after the area in which Kimbrough’s legendary backwoods juke joint Junior’s Place had been located.

Two albums into their Nonesuch contract, the Black Keys hit paydirt with El Camino. Their sound now incorporated stronger rock influences – indeed, both “Lonely Boy” and “Gold on the Ceiling” had a glammy stomp about them that suggested ’70s T-Rex. A couple of albums later and after a considerable break in which frontman Dan Auerbach established himself as a studio and record company owner and producer with his Easy Eye Sound imprint, the Keys return to their blues roots this month, with “Delta Kream“, which features new versions of multiple songs by both Burnside and Kimbrough and more.

Joining the two-piece Black Keys – Auerbach and long-time original partner Patrick Carney – for the new record is Kenny Brown. Brown is a guitarist steeped in the North Mississippi sound who grew up in the region and learned his skills at the feet of a local bluesman named Joe Callicott, who first recorded in the 1920s. Kenny Brown first played with Burnside in 1971 and spent decades as Burnside’s sideman and “adopted son.”

While Kenny Brown is best known as Burnside’s long-time lieutenant, he has released several solo records in the past. The title track of his first album, “Goin’ Back To Mississippi”, is this writer’s pick for best rockin’ blues number of the last 30 years or so . 

The Black Keys recorded Delta Kream as a quartet – Dan and Pat, sitting in a circle with Kenny and another white alumnus of the North Mississippi region, Eric Deaton, who cut his teeth playing Junior’s Place as a teenager. The album was cut live in the studio and captures the loose grooves of this particular type of blues in a way that hasn’t been caught since we lost both Kimbrough and Burnside (in 1998 and 2005, respectively.) The album features multiple tunes from Junior and RL Burnside and some tunes that influenced them, like John Lee Hookers‘ iconic “Crawling’ Kingsnake”, the album’s first single. The video, as seen here, features Kenny Brown and Eric Deaton alongside Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney .

The first single they have shared from the collection is a John Lee Hooker track called “Crawling Kingsnake.” Auerbach recalls first hearing the original version “in high school,” but feels their interpretation is “definitely Junior Kimbrough’s take on it. It’s almost a disco riff!”

The Black Keys from the album “Delta Kream“. Pre-order new album Delta Kream out May 14th via Nonesuch Records:

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Comments
  1. Yep. All of this is Bob on

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