Keys do blues of a different color

Twosome's wail and fuzz belies their youthful Midwest roots

Some bands never catch a break.

Last month the Akron, Ohio, duo the Black Keys made it into the rotation on MTV with a video for the song 'Set You Free.' As luck would have it, they were announced as hip-hop group the Black Eyed Peas! That's showbiz: always a heartbreak.

Much balloon juice has been spent discussing the merits and credentials of this youthful blues twosome. What we have here is a surly pair of young white boys Ñ singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Pat Carney Ñ playing stripped-down, 'medium-fi' blues.

Auerbach, at a very nongrizzled 22, certainly sounds older than his years, but he does not much sound like anyone with the handle 'Blind Lemon' or 'Howlin'' affixed to his name. There's little doubt that young Auerbach is a student of the blues Ñ his scratchy slide guitar playing on 'Hold Me in Your Arms' verifies this. But his vocal styling seems to have been equally influenced by British blues rockers, with his guitar playing jelling along similar lines.

On 'Set You Free' and the cover of Richard Berry's 'Have Love Will Travel,' Auerbach sounds a heck of a lot like Free/Bad Company howler Paul Rodgers or Chris Farlowe from Atomic Rooster.

On the guitar front, it appears that the lad has learned well from Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Paul Kossoff and the rest of the tea-bag brigade, albeit with added fuzz and buzz. The Brits copped the blues from the Delta in the '60s, and these guys are just returning the favor.

That said, the Keys' recent album, 'Thickfreakness' (Fat Possum Records), is still a stomping good record. Auerbach writes superior blues tunes while drummer Carney pounds up a sympathetic storm somewhere between dirty basic and Ginger Baker-busy.

It's a small but timely evolutionary step for the blues, a genre that needs all the help it can get these days, given the surfeit of boring Stevie Ray Vaughan wannabes muddying the water. Throw this party platter on at your next shindig, and you'll start to worry about the chandelier tearing loose from the ceiling.

The Black Keys play at 8 p.m. Saturday, July 19, at Lola's Room, 1332 W. Burnside St., 503-225-0047, $8 advance, $10 day of show.

The Warlocks

Phoenix Album


The Warlocks' bio page is certainly fanciful reading, asking the listener to picture the Velvet Underground playing 'Heroin' or the Rolling Stones up to their knees in 'Sympathy for the Devil' at Altamont. The page describes 'dangerous scenes' and mentions that Warlocks' bandleader Bobby Hecksher signed a record contract in his own blood. Oh, please!

Rather than conjuring up grainy footage of the Stones or the Velvets, the Los Angeles-based Warlocks have a lot more in common with narco-glitter acts such as Brian Jonestown Massacre or even local mischief-makers the Dandy Warhols.

Granted, the Warlocks are less inclined toward lively pop delights than the effervescent Dandys, preferring instead to throw a shroud of the dark creepies over everything.

Liberal doses of dreary organ and sleazy guitar steer 'Cosmic Letdown' right into the bum-trip hamper. 'Stickman Blues' is a convincing blast that sounds like Iggy and the Stooges if they'd hailed from Haight-Ashbury instead of Ann Arbor, Mich. 'Dope Feels Good' shakes off the torpor, as Hecksher sings an optimistic, upbeat ditty about scooting uptown to score some drugs.

Somewhere amid all the haze and hookah smoke of 'Phoenix Album' are the bones of a fairly promising band. Hopefully, the Warlocks will not get too tangled up in the trappings of their 'dangerous scenes' and make with some more rock action.

The Warlocks play at 9 p.m.

Saturday, July 19, at Dante's, 1 S.W. Third Ave., 503-226-6630, $10.

Girls' night out

As far as Friday night concert possibilities, consider the Aladdin Theater for a pair of record-release outings from one current Portlander and one ex-local who decided to seek her fortunes elsewhere.

That intrepid songstress McKinley has emerged from Kung Fu Bakery studio with her third full-length album, 'Goner.' It's a dazzling record that shows off McKinley's formidable pipes as well as some courageous songwriting.

'Goner' is an album that reveals the damage wreaked ÑÊon the creative process and the artist herselfÊÑÊby doubt and loss of confidence. Songs such as 'Amsterdam' and the title track are lovingly arranged and full of sweet melodic moments, but the undercurrent is turbulent and starkly personal.

Deb Talan used to sing for the late Portland band Hummingfish, but in 1999 she relocated to Boston and has been hatching highly acclaimed solo records ever since. Her new record is titled 'A Bird Flies Out,' and it's brimming with all manner of pop hooks, country melancholy and folk honesty.

McKinley and Deb Talan play at 8 p.m. Friday, July 18, at Aladdin Theater, 3017 S.E. Milwaukie Ave., 503-233-1994, $12.