November 2006

The Black Keys - Magic Potion
Nonesuch 79967-2
Format: CD
Released: 2006

by Shannon Holliday

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

Since their debut release in 2002, the Black Keys have consistently been disproving those who doubt that a duo can deliver solid sounds. Guitarist/vocalist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney activate some kind of wundertwin power when they play, and the result rocks. On Magic Potion, their fourth studio CD, the Keys stick with their now-recognizable style: a combination of grungy guitar, blues-soaked lyrics, and rhythms that I wager will make you swagger. How two white boys from Akron, Ohio tapped into such blues-rock depths is not clear, but their inherent talent is.

While all the songs on this album are unique, influences can be heard from the Atlantic Coast Piedmont to across the pond. A certain hollowness is always present in their pared-down approach, caused by using no extra accompaniment other than organ on occasion, but this only adds to the authenticity of their sound. Heavy feedback ( la Hendrix), bass-drum reverb and vocal echoes fill in space to great effect. No magic potion necessary; just let the music put you under its spell and find your own release in its edgy, raw emotion.

The album was recorded in the drummer's basement and cover art created by a relative. With so many contemporaries relying on flash, cash, and less-than-discerning audiences to market their sound, it's refreshing to get back to basics with this duo.