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The Black Keys: Delta Kream review – stripped-back simmering blues

·1 min read

Over a 20-year trajectory from playing in bars with no audience to filling arenas, the Black Keys have never lost the blues. The Ohio duo of singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney’s 10th album illustrates the point with a set of songs by the north Mississippi artists that continue to inspire them, such as Lafayette County’s late RL Burnside and Hudsonville’s also deceased Junior Kimbrough, a labelmate when the early Black Keys recorded for Fat Possum.

The Black Keys: Delta Kream album cover.
The Black Keys: Delta Kream album cover. Photograph: AP

Backed by those bluesmen’s own sidemen – Burnside’s slide guitarist Kenny Brown and Kimbrough’s bassist Eric Deaton – the pair have returned to the simpler joys of their early records. With Auerbach sparing the postmodern production that has been intrinsic to later Black Keys albums, in just 10 hours the four men recorded more than two post-tour afternoons, mostly in first takes. We hear studio chatter such as “Ready?” and “Yes sir” and the songs’ raw, simmering feel is epitomised by their low-slung, groovier, sleazy take on Crawling Kingsnake, as previously popularised by John Lee Hooker and the Doors.

Kimbrough’s Stay All Night magically drips with midnight oil yearning and Walk With Me hammers a groove to mantra-like repetition. The now hugely successful pair can’t perhaps sing Burnside’s Poor Boy a Long Way from Home with any great factual accuracy nowadays, but they sound thoroughly in their comfort zone and utterly in their element.