Like The Black Keys? Dig Their Musical Roots

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The Black Keys
What a wonder prime time slots at Coachella two years in a row will do for you.

Everything's coming up Milhouse for The Black Keys these days. The blues/indie/garage group played a sold-out show at Mesa Amphitheatre last year and will return to a much larger venue in October. Thanks to the success of Brothers and El Camino, the boys from Akron, Ohio, are scheduled to perform on Tuesday, October 9, at US Airways Center.

The band has managed to break through to the the mainstream, a rare feat for acts not called Foster the People, though their band's formula -- a pinch of Delta blues, some garage rock, and a dash classic soul, is nothing new. It's the kind of a sound that's always had a place on the rock 'n' roll FM dial. Which isn't to say that the band rips anything off. Rather, they blend influences like craftsmen, and are quick to shout out their reference points (check out songwriter Dan Auerbach's spot-on production for Dr. John and Nathaniel Mayer).

Indeed, the Black Keys' stew is a tasty one. Let's take a closer look at some of the ingredients.

Junior Kimbrough

Without Junior Kimbrough, The Black Keys may not exist. I'm sure Dan Auerbach still would have still ended up making music, but it wouldn't sound quite like the end result of The Black Keys. Kimbrough is probably the greatest influence on The Black Keys' sound -- just listen to his raw guitar style and soulful vocals. Case in point, their EP Chulahoma is a tribute album to Kimbrough.

T-Model Ford

Another of the classic Fat Possum/Alive bluesmen, James Lewis Carter "T-Model" Ford is clearly an influence on Auerbach's vocal stylings. Plus, dude's a straight badass. He has 26 children, he served on a chain gang in his early years, and he taught himself how to play guitar after his fifth wife left him. He didn't have any formal guitar training -- he just imitated Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, resulting in an utterly unique style.

R.L. Burnside

Burnside and his contemporaries were once described as "present-day exponents of an edgier, electrified version of the raw, uncut Delta blues sound. Sounds a lot like a description of The Black Keys (who were also influenced by Jon Spencer, who blew out the speakers with Burnside as part of the burgeoning punk-blues movement of the late '90s/early '00s).

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US Airways Center

201 E. Jefferson St., Phoenix, AZ

Category: Music

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4 comments
210lieber
210lieber

Bout time people found out bout the black keys what it took 6albums to have people finally catch on..

Phoenix New Times
Phoenix New Times

Yeah -- but that's one of the things I like about the Black Keys. It was a hard earned, time tested success. Not some flash in the pan, major-label cash toss. The Black Keys put in their time, and it made them what they are.

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