I’m not a big believer in the idea that bands absorb some ghostly qi in a particular space — if that were the case, Nickelback would be busy rigging up multiple pianos at Abbey Road. I do, however, think it’s apposite that the Black Keys recorded their sixth and best album at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama, a matchbox of sweaty soul history.
Once just another guitar/drums garage-blues duo, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have moved beyond the garage and the blues and are now making quintessentially American music that’s knee-deep in funky R&B, sorrow-drowning and bigger-things-aspiring, not afraid to steal and reimagine.
The primal riffs on “Howlin’ for You” and “She’s Long Gone” are pure John Lee Hooker and/or R.L. Burnside, sure, but the duo’s pursuit of expanding sound — weightless on the Chess-Records-in-glam-boots strut “Everlasting Light,” muggy on the wah-motored “Next Girl,” haunted on “I’m Not the One” — gives the impression that sonic flora and fauna are sprouting up alongside two dudes jamming. Brothers finds the Black Keys digging their own space, one that needn’t be geographically defined.