On May 14, 2021, The Black Keys released their 10th studio album: Delta Kream. The album features 12 covers of old delta blues classics (hence the album’s title) by artists such as John Lee Hooker, R. L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough and more.
This album showcases standard, delta blues licks with a modern twist. Though, the recordings are all reminiscent of the rough-around-the-edges sessions of a different era of rhythm and blues. Tracks begin with chatter from the band and unorganized intros giving the overall tone of the album a very informal tone. The pickiest of recording purists and audiophiles might view this as unprofessional. As though the album was simply thrown together in an afternoon. However, I believe this tone lends itself well to the style of music being played. It establishes an aesthetic of a gritty and old blues sound, which is well supported by the tone of the instruments throughout.
I have been a fan of the Black Keys’ work for quite some time now. I was even lucky enough to see them live in Chicago during the 2014 Turn Blue Tour. With that said, this album represents the end of a lengthy falling out I have had with the Black Keys. The albums that they have released over the past 10 years have proved to be hit or miss. With El Camino and Turn Blue standing as some of my favorite alt-rock albums of all time, I found it difficult not to cringe while listening to the 2019 release Let’s Rock, following a 5 year hiatus of my beloved rock duo.
But, to put it simply, Delta Kream has taught me to love again when it comes to the Black Keys. The performance of the personnel on the album is where the most subjectivity comes into this review, but personally, I wouldn’t change a thing.
From the perspective of a guitarist who loves the blues, I was not wowed by the guitar performances on this record. So if you’re looking for blistering, SRV-like guitar solos, look elsewhere. Dan Auerbach and Kenny Brown are both more than capable, seasoned guitarists, but neither are keen towards shredding. But in the context of this album, that is more than fine by me. If you were to listen to old delta blues tracks from the 1930’s you wouldn’t hear any shredding either. The bands focus on rhythm as opposed to the solo breaks seems more authentic and true to the standards they are covering.
Fan’s of the old Black Keys sound should devour this album, and I highly recommend that they do. My personal favorite tracks on the album are:
- “Coal Black Mattie” written by Ranie Burnette
- “Poor Boy a Long Way from Home” written by R. L. Burnside
- “Louise” written by Mississippi Fred McDowell
- “Sad Days, Lonely Nights” written by Junior Kimbrough
Here is a link to purchase the album.