Waiting On A Song

Dan Auerbach

Easy Eye Sound, 2017


REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


The beauty of the solo album for a guy like Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach is that it offers the chance to break out of the musical confines of his well-known band and experiment with different sounds, not just for a moment or a single track, but an entire album. With recent Keys albums having focused on increasingly glammy electrified blues-rock that sometimes gets both loud and heavy, Auerbach takes an entirely different exit off the musical freeway this time, delivering an easy-going album of sunny grooves that mixes and matches elements of country-rock, folk-rock, vintage pop and classic soul.

The opening title track quickly both sets the tone and reveals what seems to have been a major source of inspiration here, its ambling melody, densely layered guitars, and lush harmony vocals inevitably harking back to that first fabled Traveling Wilburys album—though Auerbach can’t resist throwing in some Motown bells as well. ”Livin’ In Sin” and “Shine On Me” only further this impression, the former featuring propulsive Jeff Lynne rhythm guitar backing a cheeky, rather Harrisonesque lead riff and echoey solo, while the latter feels like a rewrite of the Wilburys’ own “End Of The Line.”my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

In between, the mellow-grooving “Malibu Man” leans more to the Motown side of things with those distinctive bells, call-and-answer vocals and vintage-sounding string and horn sections. It’s loose and playful and thoroughly endearing, lacking any of the dark edge of recent Black Keys albums. “King Of A One Horse Town” cements this impression with an arrangement that pushes on past the boundaries of white soul into something approaching yacht rock airiness, grounded mostly by its downbeat lyric.

Hopscotching through the second half, we get flashes of singer-songwriter (the beach-campfire love song “Never In My Wildest Dreams”), crafty old-school r&b (the airy and slightly dangerous “Cherrybomb” features a whistle and little shotgun electric riffs punctuating the funked-up rhythm guitar and elastic bass line), and vintage pop with a twist (“Stand By My Girl” opens with an overture out of 1963... and then Auerbach throws in a big wink, singing “Gonna stand by my girl / Because she’ll kill me if I don’t”). They finish up with a one-two punch of classic soul stylings, as first “Undertow” and then “Show Me” feature lush arrangements replete with strings, bells and handclaps (somewhere, Berry Gordy is smiling).

Despite the density and craft of this music, and the occasional gloom of the lyrics, the vibe throughout is laid-back and playful. If you wanted to play the “artists in a blender” game, the Wilburys would be a major ingredient for sure, but there’s also healthy dollops of Jack Johnson and Smokey Robinson. Even moreso than in his work with the Black Keys, here Auerbach is all about trying new things with old sounds.

Much like the aforesaid Wilburys, Dan Auerbach’s Waiting On A Song is a pleasant, entertaining lark, a diversion that doesn’t feel like it either has, or aspires to, a great deal of weight or substance to it. But sometimes music is more entertainment than art, and sometimes the art lies in the level of craft one employs to entertain.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2017 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Easy Eye Sound, and is used for informational purposes only.