The Black Keys is a two person duo in the same vein as the White Stripes comprised of Akron, Ohio natives Patrick Carney on drums and singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach. They first formed in 2001 when Auerbach wanted to record in Carney’s basement studio and his band mates didn’t show up. Consequently they began to jam together alone and the Black Keys were born. They released their debut album, The Big Come Up in 2002. Their music is inspired by seminal blues performers like Robert Johnson, Junior Kimbrough and Howlin’ Wolf, while their sound can best be described as raw garage blues rock. Over the past two decades, they’ve won five Grammy Awards and have been nominated for eight more along with winning and being nominated for nearly every other music award including MTV Music Awards and the Brit Awards to name some.
Here are Blues Rock Review’s top 10 Black Keys albums.
10. The Big Come Up
The Big Come Up was released in 2002 and was an explosive debut that put them on the musical map. The album begins by crediting “Busted” to a variation the Keys played of R. L. Burnside’s “Skinny Woman.” There are 13 cuts on the album comprised of five covers and eight original compositions. The album was produced in their basement. The sound is a raw primitive sounding blues album that wasn’t a big seller but gained them a cult following.
The Black Keys’ second studio album, Thickfreakness was released on Fat Possum Records in the U.S. in 2003. It was recorded in December 2002 at Studio 45, Carney’s basement studio in Akron, Ohio. 50 percent of track 3 was recorded at Studio 880 by Jeff Salzman. A total of nine of the 11 songs are original compositions and a particularly haunting cut is “Everywhere I Go” a cover by Junior Kimbrough that sounds like a dirge with Carney’s rhythmic drum beat.
8. Rubber Factory
Akron, Ohio, the home of the Black Keys is considered to be the rubber capital of the world, so alluding to it worked its way into becoming the title for their third album, Rubber Factory. The album was actually recorded in the abandoned General Tire building and became their first album to chart on the US Billboard 200, reaching 143. The first single to come out of the 2004 album was “10 A.M. Automatic” a rocking out number that “Pitchfork” writer Jonathan Zwickel wrote was “one of the most radio-ready indie anthems of the year.”
7. Magic Potion
Magic Potion was the Black Keys’ first release on the Nonesuch record label and is the first album comprised of all original compositions. It was their fourth studio album released in 2006 and is a more stripped down sound than their previous release, Rubber Factory.
6. Attack & Release
In 2008 the Black Keys released their fifth studio album and the second on the “Nonesuch” record label. It was the first album to be produced in a professional studio by an outside producer as well as other musicians besides Auerbach and Carney. It featured the song “I Got Mine” which was listed by Rolling Stone as the #23 song on their list of the 100 Best Songs of 2008.
5. Turn Blue
Turn Blue is the band’s eigth studio album and the fourth collaboration with Danger Mouse both as co-producer and co-songwriter with Auerbach and Carney on 11 of the 13 album cuts. Brian Burton played keyboards on the 2014 album once again on the Nonesuch record label and it became the Black Keys’ first American #1 album on the Billboard 200. The tone of the album is melancholy since it was recorded at the same time that Auerbach was going through a painful divorce.
4. Let’s Rock
After a 5 year hiatus, Auerbach and Carney returned to the studio to produce Let’s Rock’on their own. It was a harder rocking album than Turn Blue, the last release, and was named after the final words of a death row inmate on the way to his demise in the electric chair. Rather than keyboards, the album was more guitar-oriented and included two additional guitar players on the album’s promotional tour in 2019.
3. Delta Kream
Delta Kream is the Black Keys’ 10th studio album and returns them to the inspiration of their blues roots. To help them out they were accompanied by slide guitar player Kenny Brown from junior Kimbrough and R. L. Burnside bass player Eric Deaton. Auerbach stated in the Black Keys Lonely Boys and Girls Club that “We made this record to honor the Mississippi hill country blues tradition that influenced us starting out.”
2. El Camino
In 2011 the Black Keys released their seventh album, El Camino which was co-produced and co-written by the Black Keys and Danger Mouse (Brian Joseph Burton). The album was the result of three months of recording in Dan Auerbach’s newly opened Easy Eye studio in Nashville, Tennessee. “Lonely Boy” was the lead single from the album and it became their most popular song to date reaching #64 on the Billboard Hot 100. The video of a man dancing to the “hip shaking first single” racked up over half a million hits on Youtube in just a couple of days.
The band’s sixth album in 2010, Brothers was their commercial breakthrough when it produced “Tighten Up,” their first single to reach the Billboard Hot 100 and hit #3. The album won two Grammy awards, went platinum, and produced a second hit single “Howlin’ For You.” It was co-produced by the Black Keys’ Mark Neill and Brian Joseph Burton A.K.A. Danger Mouse on Nonesuch Records.