There are 36 black keys on the piano, but there are only two Black Keys — guitarist and singer Dan Auerbach and drummer Andrew Carney — who create one of the mightiest blues-rock roars in contemporary music. From a cellar in Akron, Ohio where the duo have recorded all their albums but their latest, The Black Keys have risen to become admired as one of the hippest bands in modern rock.
Driven by Carney’s relentless grooves and Auerbach’s stunning guitar attack, The Black Keys draw from deep within the blues-music well while making free-thinking music with a modern experimentalism. A 2002 debut album on the small indie Alive Records label, The Big Come Up, led the band to sign with the tastemaking Possum Records imprint and issue two more CDs — Thickfreakness (2003) and Rubber Factory (2004) — that sealed the band’s rep with the musical cognoscente while their take-no-prisoners shows made The Black Keys a hot ticket on the touring and festival circuits. With 2006’s Magic Potion on Nonesuch, the little bluesy duo with a wallop of an impact has risen to the big leagues.
And now with this year’s Attack & Release, The Black Keys have come out of the cellar to be produced by Danger Mouse. “After doing four albums in the basement, we were ready to go somewhere else,” Auerbach says. The project began when Danger Mouse asked the Keys to write songs for an album by Ike Turner. But when the r&b legend died last December, it became a collaboration that led to Attack & Release.
The new release leapt to #14 on the Billboard 200 and the trade’s Top Internet Albums chart, a signal that The Black Keys have arrived. And it’s still just the two of them creating music for millions. “Pat and I just click,” observes Auerbach of their simple-yet-potent equation. “We walk in to a groove quite easily. It’s kind of hard to describe.” But a listen to The Black Keys tells the tale quite vividly.