- 14 May 21
Doing The Righteous Boogie
Way, way back before they were having things like “hits” The Black Keys were clangy, rattling blues evangelists, of the Mississippi Hill Country variety. The sub-genre is possibly best exemplified by the mighty R.L. Burnside and The Keys’ beloved Junior Kimbrough, who they devoted the Chulahoma E.P. to back in 2006. It's blues that isn't afraid to stop for a while on the one chord, get into the pocket, and work there until it gets you moving.
Kimbrough songs prop up this covers album, including another sleezy, arse-kicking go at ‘Do The Romp’, which they first tackled on their debut record, The Big Come Up. It was Kimbrough’s records that convinced Dan Auerbach to quit the college life and hit the road in the first place, driving south from Akron to cop a feel of the real deal. That devotion shows in the fire they bring to ‘Sad Days, Lonely Nights’, ‘Walk With Me’ and the low moan of ‘Come And Go With Me’.
‘Crawling King Snake’ might be the best-known tune here, but again it’s Kimbrough that provides the inspiration, rather than the more famous John Lee Hooker cut. Patrick Carney has compared it to a disco riff, and he’s not far off. The slide guitar solo is as filthy as your uncle after a few jars, and the sound is as close as you're going to get to a juke joint short of catching the next flight back in time. The song doesn't so much end as collapse in a heap, spent. Fantastic.
As for the R.L. Burnside covers, ‘Poor Boy’ and ‘Going Down South’ both mean serious business, nodding at Burnside’s 1996 masterpiece, A Ass Pocket Of Whiskey. There’s a version of ‘Boogie Chillen’ on that record which could cause a riot if you turned it up loud enough, and you could probably create a similar disturbance with the right speakers and the run through Ranie Burnette’s ‘Coal Black Mattie’ included here. It whirls and twists like a blues Salome, demanding a head on the plate and your ass on the floor.
It's not just the R.L. and Junior show either; the lonesome and horny pleas of 'Louise' were recorded by Mississippi Fred McDowell back in 1964, and the rollin' and tumblin' slide line here tugs on her sleeve, nodding and winking. The dirty, caveman-stomp bass kick-off to The Keys' take on Big Joe Williams' 'Mellow Peaches' could be from some long-lost Stooges recording session.
Kenny Brown and Eric Deaton played with both Burnside and Kimbrough, so it all makes sense, and the connection these four men have here - there's a bit of extra percussion and some organ thrown in here and there - is nothing short of telepathic. Someone must have been packing a mojo hand. They plugged themselves in, and got the job done in about ten hours, because they know what they’re doing. I was quite taken with the last Black Keys album, but this is a whole different ballgame in pints; they sound revitalised, raw as eggs, and righteous.