There have always been elements of soul, of course, running through the back catalogue of both The Black Keys and Dan Auerbach‘s solo work. Indeed, 2009’s self titled Blakroc side project was steeped in classic R&B, but Waiting On A Song, perhaps, is where the genre well and truly pokes its head above the parapet, albeit in its gentlest form. This is kind of ironic, given that Auerbach himself refers to his latest project as his “Nashville project“. Always with a keen ear for an impossibly infectious tune, the triple Grammy winning Ohioan has almost certainly created his most commercially accessible album to date here, with numbers equally likely to appeal to your granny, your girlfriend or, quite feasibly, even your pet gerbil.
‘Shine On Me‘ is just classic pop, a twitchy melody that harks back to George Harrison‘s version of ‘Got My Mind Set On You‘, and is as ridiculously catchy as Trooper‘s ‘We’re Here For A Good Time Not A Long Time‘, while the song that follows it, ‘King Of A One Horse Town‘ is a lushly produced sun-kissed dream of a tune, before ‘Malibu Man‘ recalls Marc Bolan if he’d spent two weeks at the Brill Building with, say, The Four Tops. This is unquestionably a vintage sounding record, yet somehow, as he always seems to do, Auerbach manages to put his unmistakeable stamp all over it. If you played any one of these tracks to a casual music listener and told them it had been number one for Dave Edmunds in 1973, I’d be willing to wager that they wouldn’t bat an eyelid, yet there would be something at the back of their mind telling them that something was amiss because it still sounds kind of modern at the same time.
The melodies here are so winsomely pretty – ‘Wildest Dreams‘ even going so far as to suggest Jack Johnson fronting The Thrills – that it would make people with two left feet dance as gracefully as Fred Astaire. You just can’t help it, the music carries you along effortlessly, albeit sometimes a little TOO much so, for you could easily file this under “Easy Listening” without question.
Towards the end of Waiting On A Song, Auerbach even incorporates handclaps into the glammy ‘Stand By My Girl‘, while ‘Undertow‘ is soulful in the same way that ‘Weight Of Love‘ was, but without the searing guitar accompaniment, replaced instead by Motown strings, and the long player is topped off with ‘Show Me‘, a song so radio friendly that it wouldn’t be a stretch to envisage Dr Hook performing it.
Fans of the early Black Keys work will no doubt be aghast, but for those of us who like to keep an open mind on all genres of music, Waiting On A Song is a very likeable slice of melodic whimsy.
Waiting On A Song is released 2nd of June through Nonesuch.