New Music Reviews

The Black Keys’ Crawling Kingsnake: A Soulful Cover of a Blues Staple

The Black Keys are back with their lo-fi blues take on rock & roll with a classic 1940s blues cover, Crawling Kingsnake. This track has been covered from Johnny Lee Hooker to The Doors. Now The Black Keys take their stab at on their lead single for their upcoming record Delta Kream.

The Akron, Ohio duo of Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney are back on the scene giving us their modern take on traditional blues structures. They both been very busy over the past few years. In between making records, both Dan and Patrick have waded into the land of production. Dan has produced records for Lana Del Rey, Dr. John, the Pretenders and others, while Patrick runs his own studio called Audio Eagle. Both are credited as producers of their upcoming record and produced Crawling Kingsnake.

This song has a warmth that is lacking in the raw blues rock of Thickfreakness or Magic Potion. First of all, bass and rhythm guitar that really fills out the sound and moves away from the stark stripped back lo – fi sound the duo is famous for. Dan layers bass and slide guitar tracks over each other in a way that gives the track more depth as his bluesy slur oozes over everything. In this way he is able to capture the blues with the slide, while not compromising on the track’s soul. Similarly, Patrick’s percussion does not overpower the track, but gives it a soulful stride.

Moreover, Dan’s vocal gives this classic blues cover an inviting American soul vibe. Crawling Kingsnake comes across as Delta Blues meets southern gospel soul. You can feel the smoke filled and sweaty blues bar as you hear the verses, but it does not have the raw pain I associate with classic Muddy Waters or B.B King blues. This is far removed from Dan’s usual incoherent gravely moan, but I think it works really well with the track’s vibe. Having said that, his blistering slide guitar and fire blues solo is never far behind to remind you that you are in the Delta.

I love The Black Keys and it is great to see them breathing new life into a forgotten blues staple. Even though the track is not in their classic lo – fi style, it still captures the emotional hook that makes blues so relatable. Dan and Patrick have done some post work on this track as they layer guitars over each other and generally clean up the song, but you still feel as if they stumbled into a studio booth and banged this out in one take. It is that immediacy of the music that The Black Keys continue to deliver, which always makes them an exciting band to dive into.

Listen to Crawling Kingsnake

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