Mitchell: ‘Ear grabbing’ songs from Black Keys

The Black Keys:

El Camino (Nonesuch)

The Black Keys are one of those bands that just get better and better with each album.  Last years album, Brothers, had the two superb rock hits Tighten Up and Howlin’ For You that propelled the album to platinum but El Camino is an even better and stronger offering.

The group has already scored a major hit with the party-fuelled Lonely Boy while I hear three or four more hits here—that reminds me of fellow alt-blues colleagues The Kings Of Leon who enjoyed four hits off their brilliant Only By The Night long player.

The Black Keys have hooked up with co-producer Danger Mouse for El Camino who adds extra spice in the mix and every song is built as if it were a single with tunes that often end abruptly and clock in under four minutes ready for airplay.

I am also a believer that if you think you are hearing a lot of influences in a new song, it tends to make the song an instant classic. Listen closely to Lonely Boy and tell me that isn’t Jerry Garcia singing behind The Screaming Blue Messiahs (their lone hit I Wanna Be A Flintstone) while T.Rex shows up at the second half of the song to add his two cents.

And that is the way this album goes. There are so many influences, real or imagined, that spark this tip to tail album of gems.

There are just too many excellent and ear grabbing songs to mention but check out the White Stripes garage minimalism of Dead And Gone, the grimy blues-pop of Run Right Back and wondrous rock/reggae of Hell Of A Season.

The album clocks in at a sturdy 38 minutes with 11 full-on party, alt-blues tunes.

Look for this disc to load up on hardware in this year’s numerous award shows.

Incidentally, an El Camino is a very collectible, low slung ’60/70s car with a stylish pickup truck bed in the back but there are dozens of photos of worn out and rusted mini vans that are wholly unglamorous compared to the rarefied El Camino so, like The Black Keys, I’ll let the listener try and figure out the band’s intent.

Finally, extra kudos to The Black Keys for mouthing off in a recent Rolling Stone magazine article about just how awful Nickelback really are.


Anthony Hamilton: Back To Love (RCA)

Anthony Hamilton is an American based old school R&B singer who sells like hot cakes in his native USA but he rarely gets noticed in Canada.  All of his five albums have hit the top 20 down south but never seem to make much of a dent up here in the Great White North charts.

Nonetheless, Hamilton is a superbly smooth R&B and urban practitioner.  He has written big hits for the likes of 2Pac, Eve, Darnell Jones, Sunshine Anderson etc., while he has garnered several Grammy nominations.

Hamilton’s new release has plenty to recommend it from the silky smooth and slightly jazzy opener and title track Back To Love, to the retro Al Green inspired Woo and the OutKast-like urban rocker Sucka For You.

Hamilton has a very alluring voice that has plenty of polish and élan while he is also a fine songwriter.

If you are a fan of urban music and R&B you will definitely be pleased with this remarkably well pieced together album that has sufficient variety that grows on you with repeated listenings.



Hot Chelle Rae:

Whatever (RCA)


Hot Chelle Rae are a Nashville Tenn. band that goes against the grain of the region’s music.  There is not even a hint of country in their pure tweenie pop and the main reason they are based out of Nashville is that their parents are all A-list session players and songwriters who make their living in music city row.

Anyway, HCR had a huge summer hit in Canada with Tonight Tonight off a four-song EP and now their new full length album has arrived.

The problem for the band is that this new CD just isn’t having much of an impact because they sort of got overexposed with their unexpected hit from the EP and their hybrid of boy band/pure pop just isn’t very interesting.

HCR have placed their frothy new single I Like It Like That, with guest teen rappers New Boyz, at the very bottom of the radio charts way down in the lower 90s and there isn’t a lot to love about the rest of Whatever.

All the songs were written by the group along with their producers so you have to wonder how much HCR were manipulated for marketing purposes.

They seem to be aiming for a transition audience out of boy band adulation toward young adulthood with references to maybe irresponsible drinking, second base sex and night clubbing but I think as a result HCR will just fall between the cracks.

It is too square and innocent for adults and maybe too risqué for tweenies.

In spite of guests like Demi Lovato and Bei Major, Whatever has too much harmless, empty calorie pop and too much calculated spontaneity.

Hot Chelle Rae could be shaping up to be one hit wonders.




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