Artist: Dan Auerbach
Title: Waiting on a Song
Genre: Roots Rock
Release Date: June 2, 2017
Length: 33 min.
Label: Easy Eye Sound
Producer: Dan Auerbach
Personnel: Dan Auerbach (lead vocals, guitars, bass, percussion, Mellotron), Gene Chrisman (drums), Jeffrey Clemens (drums, percussion), Roy Agee (trombone), Matt Combs (strings), Jerry Douglas (dobro), Leisa Hans (backing vocals), Steve Herrmann (trumpet), Chris St. Hilaire (drums), Kenny Malone (drums, marimba, percussion, vibraphone), Pat McLaughlin (acoustic guitar, mandola, backing vocals), Leon Michels (horn), Russ Pahl (acoustic, electric, resonator, and steel guitars; sitar), Heather Rigdon (backing vocals), Dave Roe (bass), Dennis Solee (flute, saxophone), Kenny Vaughan (guitars), Ashley Wilcoxson (backing vocals), and Bobby Wood (chimes, glockenspiel, organ, piano, vibraphone, backing vocals)
Special Guests: Mark Knopfler (rhythm guitar on “Shine On Me”) and Duane Eddy (electric guitar on “Livin’ In Sin” and “King of a One Horse Town”)
Dan Auerbach’s last solo album release, his debut, was Keep It Hid in 2009, right as the spotlight for Dan Auerbach’s main band, The Black Keys, began to shine at its brightest. Because of this, Keep It Hid was a breather for Auerbach, not a focused project. 2017, on the other hand, finds the Black Keys in the midst of some time off, so Auerbach has a bit more freedom to develop a proper album. If you, like me, are a Black Keys fan, you may have hoped you could take solace in Auerbach’s new solo project in light of the Black Keys’ hiatus. Nevertheless, Waiting on a Song is not as much like Auerbach’s Black Keys’ material as I thought it would be.
Sure, Dan brings with him his now-refined ability to write and perform catchy, fun, retro tunes, but the Black Keys foundation is and always has been the blues. Whether the guys are playing regular blues rock, garage rock, or psychedelic influenced material, the blues foundation of such old-timers as Howlin’ Wolf and Robert Johnson always remains intact. Auerbach’s little project over here is different. It is almost completely a charming tribute to the country, soul, and rock ‘n’ roll of the ’60s and ’70s, plus some of that period’s folk rock.
Auerbach does that old-fashioned sound justice. You can hear touches of Auerbach’s work with Americana singer Ray LaMontagne here, as well as sonic references to such classic artists as Otis Redding, Bill Withers, Van Morrison, Electric Light Orchestra, T. Rex, The Guess Who, Simon & Garfunkel, The Band, Tom Petty, and the Traveling Wilburys. There’s also what sounds like a Bob Dylan reference on “King of a One Horse Town,” which would not be surprising, as Auerbach has expressed his respect for Dylan in the past.
I will be returning to this album, as I really enjoyed the entirety of the runtime, and I think you will enjoy it too. My favorite tracks are the title track, “King of a One Horse Town,” “Livin’ In Sin,” “Cherrybomb,” and “Stand by My Girl.” And it would be negligent of me not to mention some of the legends who I was excited to see had added to the nostalgic sound here: Duane Eddy of “Rebel Rouser” fame adds his deliciously twangy guitar to “Livin’ In Sin” and “King of a One Horse Town”; Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits helps out with rhythm duties on “Shine On Me”; Gene Chrisman joins in, a major studio musician – as a member of “The Memphis Boys” – at the famous American Sound Studio, the drummer on such iconic hits as Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man,” Elvis’s “Suspicious Minds,” Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” and B.J. Thomas’s “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head”; Jerry Douglas, probably the most well-known dobro player of all time, brings his skillset; and others appear.
If you dislike the Black Keys, you very well may dislike this too, because Auerbach does bring to the project what some consider Black Keys weaknesses: simple, repetitive, straightforward, past-worshiping, throwback tunes. But those same characteristics are reasons I enjoy the Black Keys’ music, and though certainly applied differently on Waiting on a Song, I love that roots-iness.
Like Jack White, Auerbach – and Pat Carney – has done much in the past several years to keep rock and roll alive and relevant while also, somewhat, propelling it into the future. Waiting on a Song may linger just a bit too long in the past, but it’s still excellent. In many ways, Auerbach is today’s Mark Knopfler, or the closest to it we’re likely to see. Over the years, Auerbach has become an outstanding vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, and producer. All those traits are on superb display here.
I’m going to give Dan Auerbach’s Waiting on a Song an 82%.