Black Keys stick to roots on ‘Rock’

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Agnetha Falstart (left), and Frida Longstokin of Bjorn Again perform on the main stage on the third day of Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm, Somerset, England on June 28. Temperatures are expected to soar over the weekend as a heatwave hits parts of Europe, while the festival runs for five days and is one of the largest events of its kind in the world. (AP)

Allman Betts Band feels staid

The Black Keys, “Let’s Rock” (Nonesuch/Easy Eye Sound)

The Black Keys are back with a return to their roots. And just in case their opening song doesn’t make that clear enough, the album’s title – “Let’s Rock” – spells out their intention.

Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have made rock with a bluesy-funk undertone their specialty, with this influence even shining through on some of Auerbach’s production projects (see Cage the Elephant’s “Tell Me I’m Pretty”). While they may have ventured from this sound slightly on their last album, 2014’s ambient and psychedelic “Turn Blue”, they’ve returned to it in full force and to full effect on their ninth LP, “Let’s Rock”.

Opener “Shine a Little Light” is appropriately bright and upbeat, entering with a blues rock feel before changing gears into a more garage rock sound for the chorus. It’s followed by “Eagle Birds”, a track equally reminiscent of the Keys’ sound on 2010’s “Brothers” and 2011’s “El Camino”.

While the Keys have returned to their catchy, provocative riffs, “Let’s Rock” leans closer to their more recent albums than their earlier, grittier sound. Softer songs like “Walk Across the Water” and the Beatles-sounding “Sit Around and Miss You” bring depth to the album, while the female background vocalists used throughout add gentle, soulful tones. “Get Yourself Together” is another highlight with its Western tinge and foot-stomping rhythm.

From top to bottom, the 12-track “Let’s Rock” holds tight to captivating instrumentation, with guitar at the center. The Black Keys are rock royalty and to the relief of many, they aren’t quite ready to relinquish their reign.

Allman Betts Band, “Down to the River” (BMG)

Southern comfort blues-rock has never been about bluster, but Allman Betts Band could have ramped things up a notch on “Down to the River”, a lackluster album from a group that should have more to offer.

Devon Allman and Duane Betts, the sons of legendary Allman Brothers Band co-founders Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts, have been around enough all-star talent that southern rock is certainly in their DNA. But the listener is left searching a bit through middling tracks that provide little more than a vague tapestry of southern trope.

“Shinin’” is about as close as we get to that sweet southern rock groove. There are nifty lead guitar riffs and nice slide guitar work from Johnny Stachela. And the down-tempo self-titled track is well done with a bluesy cool.

But songs like “Try” and “Melodies Are Memories” feel tired and listless. It’s one thing to play with a reverence to early ‘70s rock. It’s another to be mired in its often un-inventive delivery and fall victim to its patterned complacency.

Allman Betts Band can certainly play southern rock. But they’re playing an old version of it and bringing nothing new to the table. They should and could have reached for more.


GLASTONBURY, England: Stormzy made history as the first British rapper to headline Glastonbury on Friday, bringing his experience of black urban life to the world’s biggest greenfield music festival in a performance that had the capacity crowd jumping.

The 25-year-old Londoner, whose debut album was released only two years ago, told the audience: “This is the greatest night of my entire life.”

He was joined mid-performance by Coldplay front man Chris Martin to duet on “Blinded By Your Grace Pt 1”, and later by fellow English rappers Dave and Fredo, who performed their hit “Funky Friday” with the headliner.

Next came Stormzy’s own number one record, “Vossi Bop”, the name of a viral dance move.

Drenched in sweat, Stormzy finished by “taking it to church” with “Blinded By Your Grace Pt 2”, complete with gospel choir, and finally “Big For Your Boots”, the lead single from his debut album “Gang Signs & Prayer”.

Stormzy’s performance ended the first day of music at the festival, held on Worthy Farm in southwest England and a regular fixture of the British summer calendar since the 1970s.

Revellers basked in hot sunshine, prompting organisers to tell them to put on sunscreen and drink plenty of water. The weather meant few people donned the rubber boots that are often essential at Glastonbury, which turns into a mud-bath in heavy rain.

George Ezra, the deep-voiced English singer-songwriter, had earlier brought along his own rug and stool to make the famous Pyramid Stage feel like home.

The 26-year-old’s set included “Budapest”, “Paradise”, and his ubiquitous 2018 hit “Shotgun”.

Lauryn Hill preceded Ezra on the same stage, igniting the crowd at the end of her set with “Doo-Wop (That Thing)” from her 1998 solo album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill”, and “Killing Me Softly”, the hit she sang as a member of the Fugees. (Agencies)

The Pyramid Stage opened on Friday with ABBA tribute act Bjorn Again leading a singalong to “Waterloo”, “Super Trouper” and “Dancing Queen”, while English indie rock band the Vaccines were first on The Other Stage – the second biggest of the festival’s 11 main stages.

More than 130,000 ticket holders were on site on Friday morning, organisers said. The festival runs until Monday.

By Ragan Clark

This news has been read 7488 times!

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