Muschamp Rd

The Black Keys on Conan O’Brien

January 12th, 2007
The Black Keys Thickfreakness

Once again I stayed up until 1:30 in the morning to watch a musical guest on Conan O’Brien. Yes once again I’m on the mailing list, this time the record company told me to check out Akron Ohio’s own the Black Keys.

The Black Keys are on Fat Possum Records my second favourite record label. Fat Possum is famous for scouring Mississippi looking for unsigned and little recorded blues artists. They had some success and popularity in the 90’s with R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough particularly. But the problem with basing your record label around 70 year old black men, is they die. The management eventually realised this and they released an album by Solomon Burke, who was downright sprightly compared to say T-model Ford. That brought them some more fame and they’ve branched out from just Mississippi Hill Country blues to include white artists even.

I enjoyed the Black Keys song. They are a two piece, guitar and drums. The White Stripes made this famous but they were by no means innovators. The two times I saw R.L. he didn’t have no bass player, Blues can be rather primal and both the guitar and arguably the drum originated in Africa. The drum is an instrument found in every culture as it is so simple to invent.

The guitarist played an SG I think. It had the twin cutaways and two horns that you see on the SG. It might have even been a through neck. It had a tremolo bar but I don’t think he used it much. He had two pedals, no idea what they were. You can’t learn so much from TV. One thing I would say is:

Don’t be afraid to play sloppy and loud.

The Black Keys definitely had some R.L. in them. Sometimes you don’t always understand the lyrics a blues singer is mumbling or howling. Sometimes you get the words and they still don’t quite make sense, but they still some how sound right, like you understand where the singer is coming from. Charlie Patton is probably the most famous for being incomprehensible, the only song of his that I even know most of the lyrics too is the one about the Jelly Roll. I learned it from the Canned Heat. During the Big Sugar ‘fools on stools’ tour they did this song, along with a Johnny Cash song, “Ride the Blue Train”. I went home after the show and sent them a photo of the LP.

The other thing the Black Keys reminded me of was the Inbreds. I’m not saying they sounded like the Inbreds. But like the Inbreds they were a two piece. The Inbreds played Another Roadside Attraction but we missed their set. It took us way longer than we estimated to get from Gastown to UBC by bus then through concert security. But I’ve read how they toured cross-Canada in an old Honda Civic. I don’t think the Black Keys toured the continent by themselves in a Civic.

If you want to learn about Canadian rock music read “Have not been the same” and “On a cold road”, the tale of the Inbreds is likely in the former, though they also probably get mentioned in the latter too.


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