Dan Auerbach couldn’t be faulted for lacking consistency. Indeed, the Black Keys singer and guitarist has always developed a lo-fi approach, a roots and authentic sound using cheap instruments that could be ordered from catalogues in the sixties. Once upon a time, those guitars could be found in pawnshops for a few bucks, but Auerbach showed the world that they could be used for writing legit hits, and their value has skyrocketed ever since.
Back in the fifties and sixties, many brands aimed towards beginners, but their instruments were in fact all made by the same three giant Chicago companies that sold to distributors who could choose the name on the headstock: Harmony, Valco and Kay. Kay was a pioneer in electricity and they were selling a model featuring a magnetic pickup as early as 1936. But they also made great acoustics, rustic and unique guitars.
This N-5 is a flat top acoustic that belonged to Auerbach during the first period of his band, before he moved over to Martins for the tamer productions of the albums Brothers and El Camino. It is massive all over, from its imposing jumbo body to its huge neck, and the sound is in that same ballpark, dark and fat. Auerbach used it in studio for slide playing, and was therefore using it with heavy flatwound strings. This piece of modern blues comes with a certificate signed by guitar dealer George Gruhn and Dan Auerbach himself.
Band: The Black Keys
Main guitar: Harmony H77
Compulsory listening: Little Black Submarines
When the young Ohio-born Dan Auerbach formed the duo The Black Keys in 2001, nü-metal was in fashion, and people were more interested in Limp Bizkit than garage rock. In spite of that, Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney stuck to their indie guns and ended up convincing the world thanks to their relentless hard work. The recipe was simple: Auerbach’s deep soulful voice, his rootsy playing on pawnshop guitars, Carney’s powerful and warm drum sound, and garage albums produced by the band themselves in makeshift studios.
The duo’s authenticity brought them success with Magic Potion in 2006 and especially Attack And Release in 2008, the first album recorded in a true studio with an exterior producer, namely Danger Mouse. That album was very well received, and therefore the Black Keys took it to the next level for their next two albums with a cleaner production and richer arrangements, Brothers (2010) and El Camino (2011). Songs like Lonely Boy and Gold On The Ceiling even went on to become unlikely hit songs.
During that same era, Dan Auerbach became a producer, making great albums for Dr John, Ray Lamontagne, The Pretenders and Lana Del Rey. He also started a solo career with the very well-made Keep It Hid, while the Black Keys’ last album to date, Turn Blue (2014), got lost in psychedelia without reaching the potency of its predecessors. On stage however, the band hasn’t long its edge and sounds even bigger by adding extra musicians to the original duo. In 2015, Dan Auerbach launched yet another project with the excellent soul band The Arcs, and added Waiting On A Song to his solo discography in 2017.
No matter what the project may be, Auerbach has an instantly recognizable sound, and blend of soul, blues and garage rock that only sounds like him.