You’ve got to hand it to Dan Auerbach. He’s one of a seemingly ever-increasing group of genius musicians that appear to be able to turn their hand to just about anything. Not content with his pivotal role as part of outstandingly successful blues-rock duo The Black Keys, he’s already released a solo album with 2009’s Keep It Hid, had moderate success with The Arcs and carried out untold production duties for a list of artists as long as your arm (unless you’re Mr Tickle), including Ray LaMontagne, Lana Del Rey and The Pretenders.
The most impressive characteristic of people like Auerbach is how they live to work rather than the majority of us that simply work to live. Easy to say, maybe, if you’re doing something thrilling like producing and performing music, but Auerbach really does love his work and that joy is stamped all over second solo album Waiting On A Song.
Collaborating with numerous heroes of his, Auerbach has paid particular homage to Nashville, his adopted home. There are contributions from fellow Nashville resident John Prine, with whom Auerbach struck up a strong friendship, but also from twangmeister Duane Eddy and Mark Knopfler amongst others, Auerbach declaring that the album is in fact a “love letter to Nashville” as he celebrated working with “some of the greatest musicians that ever lived”.
The first fruits of the new album came along with the Knopfler-featuring Shine On Me and the feel-good factor is strong. Radio-friendly is the theme here, with the over-repetition of the simple chorus refusing to budge from the memory cells for hours after listening; it’s catchy enough for sure, although somewhat basic, reminding of George Harrison or even his collaborative act, supergroup The Travelling Wilburys.
More joyous gaiety arrives courtesy of the title track that also serves as an album opener. Auerbach’s roots lie in the blues with The Black Keys, of course, but his family had instilled a love of bluegrass in him prior to his adventure with Patrick Carney. Whilst Never In My Wildest Dreams taps into this bluegrass background considerably, with its acoustic guitar and peppered brass, Waiting On A Song gives a first indication that the album is going to be unlike much else that Auerbach has created thus far as he adds more strings to his bow. A distinctly country rock feel overwhelms the listener so much that they could probably envisage themselves enjoying the song in some American barn, moving spritely amongst the hay whilst chewing on straw during their partner-twirling square dance routine.
The soulful, short sharp punchy strings of Malibu Man is another highlight – perhaps the album’s biggest – as just a teeny hint of blues appears whilst more strings enhance the excellent stress antidote that is the super-relaxed King Of A One Horse Town. There’s a funky moment too, with the shuffling beat, probing bass and tasty electric guitar licks of Cherrybomb impressing before another decent cut – the catchy Stand By My Girl – breathes some ’70s soft rock into the equation with a whiff of brass, following on from an intro that recalls Fatboy Slim’s Praise You.
Being in the position of loving his work so much probably has a lot to do with how joyous Waiting On A Song can sound at times, and in the current climate anything that can offer even a single moment of happy escapism should be welcomed. It’s not a world beater of an album by any means, but Auerbach’s ability to continue to branch out into things other than what he’s expected to produce can only be admired.