The singing, guitar-playing half of the Black Keys drops his first solo album, and very little of it measures up to the music of his regular band. The Keys' lean guitar-drums attack always imposed certain limitations, but Auerbach has not used his solo freedom to add refinement or polish; rather, he sinks deep into the slop: sloppy performances, sloppy production, sloppy sound.
He recorded the meandering, 14-track affair in his home studio, playing most of the instruments himself, and otherwise calling on friends and family.His songwriting does stretch beyond the hardscrabble garage-blues of the Black Keys, but his efforts at acoustic ballads, country-rock, Western twang, noise-funk and other stuff don't come fully together.
Most pointedly, Auerbach seems bent on routinely shrouding his voice with heavy echo or other effects. His singing sounds pinched and hesitant compared to his sinister soul moan with the Keys — as if he's not comfortable with all the new stylistic terrain he's tilled.
Keep it Hid has its highlights, most of which would sound pretty at home on a Black Keys record. "I Want Some More" brings the Hendrixian sludge, a bit of Farfisa organ sprinkled in. The boogie-fied "Street Walkin' thrives on a riff that recalls vintage Cream. "The Prowl" is an engaging slab of dark, dirty funk.
The best digression from his previous milieu is the opening "Trouble Weighs a Ton," which captures Auerbach accompanied by only acoustic guitar, its harmony vocals evoking a mountain-music feel.
There's a lot of ways to go with solo albums. Clearly, Dan Auerbach did not use the opportunity to test more mass-market waters. He wanted the sessions loose, lo-fi and spontaneous, and ultimately he went too far in that direction. (Nonesuch)