Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach continues in the stylistically adventurous vein of the blues-rock duo’s Attack & Release on his solo debut Keep It Hid. What distinguishes the project from his work with bandmate Patrick Carney is that the arrangements here emphasize Auerbach’s vocals more so than grimey, hard-hitting stomp. That decision pays off: His performances on the forlorn opener “Trouble Weighs a Ton,” paranoid and twitchy “When I Left the Room,” and the soulful “Real Desire” demonstrate a range of expression and depth of emotion in his voice that the Black Keys’s records simply haven’t tapped. While Auerbach has a natural gift for selling the hard-driving blues of a song like “Street Walkin’,” he’s no less convincing when he settles into the pensive mode of bluegrass-inflected closer “Goin’ Home” or when he adopts the first-person perspective of a stalker on “The Prowl.” That he incorporates a variety of distinct influences, from smooth Memphis soul to heavily distorted psychedelia, keeps the dark undercurrent that runs throughout the material from becoming one-note. Although he makes use of far more than just a drum kit and an electric guitar, his production here nonetheless stays true to the blues formalism of the Black Keys, suggesting that Auerbach likely doesn’t need to bring in any A-list producers to expand the duo’s sound on future projects. That said, Keep It Hid suggests just as strongly that Auerbach is able to stand as a compelling solo act.
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