With hits such as “Tighten Up,” “Lonely Boy” and “Gold on the Ceiling,” the Black Keys have always rocked in shades of the blues.
But on “Delta Kream,” their 10th studio album, the Grammy-winning duo goes deeper than ever into the genre, with covers of 11 Mississippi hill country blues songs by greats such as R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough.
Lead singer and guitarist Dan Auerbach — who turns 42 when the new LP drops on Friday — reveals what the Black Keys owe to this music, how they’ve stayed together for 20 years, and why he and drummer Patrick Carney are more brothers than bandmates.
What made you decide to devote an album to Mississippi hill country blues?
I had a session going on with [blues musician] Robert Finley for his new album, and on that session I invited Kenny Brown, the guitar player who played with R.L. Burnside for 35 years, and Eric Deaton, who used to play [bass] with Junior Kimbrough. And it was going so well, I called Pat, and I said, “What are you doing tomorrow?” Because Pat loves R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough just as much as I do. So Pat came over the next day, and we just recorded some songs for fun … Pat and I bonded over this music, and when we first started playing, these are some of the songs that we would cover. It’s the foundation of who we are. The first day that we recorded our demo that would go on to get us our first record deal, we recorded “Do the Romp,” [originally by Junior Kimbrough] so it’s just, like, part of the DNA of the band.
This is your 20th anniversary as a duo. What’s the secret to your longevity?
I think that Pat and I genuinely like playing music together. I think that this album is a testament to that. That is why we’re together 20 years later. I mean, I don’t have a relationship that long with anybody except my family.
How are you guys different as a duo now in your 40s than you were in your 20s?
We just have more dependents. I’ve got two [kids]. Pat’s got a few.
Your big hit was “Lonely Boy.” So how did you combat feeling lonely during the pandemic?
Aw man, I just spent so much time with my family. It’s been amazing for that. I’ve never spent this much time in my own bed in my adult life.
Last year you put out a 10th anniversary edition of “Brothers.” Would you say that you and Pat are more like brothers than bandmates now?
Yeah, definitely. Absolutely. We’ve known each other since we were, like, 13 or something. I mean, we grew up a block from each other. We were a grade apart, but we took the same school bus and stuff. My brother was best friends with Pat’s brother. My brother said, “Hey, you know, Pat’s got a drum kit in his basement and a four-track recorder. You should go play with him.”
Where do you see yourself in 20 more years?
Poolside. With some sort of drink.