DAN AUERBACH "Keep It Hid" Nonesuch HACIENDA "Loud Is the Night" Alive Natural Sound

Friday, February 27, 2009

DAN AUERBACH "Keep It Hid" Nonesuch HACIENDA "Loud Is the Night" Alive Natural Sound

THE BLACK KEYS are far more interesting than most blues-rock acts because the Ohio duo incorporates pop melodies, country-folk lyrics and psychedelic touches into its energetic blues stomps. Those beyond-the-blues elements are explored much further on the terrific first solo album from the duo's singer-guitarist, Dan Auerbach, "Keep It Hid," and the broader range reveals a major pop songwriter.

The disc begins with the understated hillbilly lament "Trouble Weighs a Ton," full of sorrow and dignity, and moves through several Black Keys-like stomps before arriving at the garage-rock ballad "Real Desire," full of throbbing organ and nervous guitar. Other highlights include the bouncy, hooky rockabilly number "My Last Mistake" and "When the Night Comes," which sounds like the best Van Morrison song in years.

Taken together, the 14 songs suggest that the novelty aspect of the Black Keys' guitar-drums format is the least interesting thing about the immensely talented Auerbach, just as the same format is the least interesting thing about the White Stripes' Jack White.

On his first solo tour, Auerbach will be backed on stage by Hacienda, a San Antonio quartet of three brothers and a cousin. Auerbach produced the band's debut album, "Loud Is the Night," which offers persuasive evidence that Hacienda is a worthy heir of such Tex-Mex rock bands as the Sir Douglas Quintet, Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, and the Texas Tornados. It's not just that Abraham Villanueva's electric organ and Dante Schwebel's R&B tenor prove so effective in the classic Tex-Mex style but that Hacienda also writes such wonderfully melodic, heartfelt rockers. And when these family members add Beach Boys-like harmonies to songs such as "Hear Me Crying" and "Angela," the effect is exhilarating.

-- Geoffrey Himes

Appearing Saturday with Those Darlins at the 9:30 club (202-265-0930, http://www.930.com). Doors open at 7 p.m.

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