The Black Keys had a good Sunday night: The group swept the rock categories with its album “El Camino” and its driving hit, “Lonely Boy,” and Keys guitarist and singer Dan Auerbach earned the Grammy for producer of the year (nonclassical) for his work behind the boards in 2012. He capped off the evening with an appearance alongside the eminent New Orleans pianist Dr. John, whose excellent “Locked Down” snagged the trophy for blues album.
Even if the band didn’t fare as well in the two major general categories -- “El Camino” and “Lonely Boy” lost out for album and record of the year, respectively -- their wins signaled another milestone for the platinum-selling group born in Akron, Ohio.
On Sunday night, the band performed a huge version of “Lonely Boy,” fueled by Auerbach, drummer Patrick Carney and some of the great New Orleans players of the last half century, Dr. John and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. The infectious song about impatient love, despite its 2012 ubiquity, never gets old for me, and to pay witness to it being carried along by big brass and mysterious voodoo made for a memorable three minutes. The break near the end, especially, gave me shivers.
The duo is already headed toward a busy 2013. In January, Carney and Auerbach started work on the follow-up to "El Camino." And wearing his production cap, Auerbach has overseen two projects that will arrive shortly. The sophomore album from Los Angeles garage rocker Hanni el Khatib, called “Head in the Dirt,” comes out April 30. The record, which will be released by the excellent L.A. label Innovative Leisure, offers a Keys-suggestive catchy power, but travels different paths.
Auerbach also oversaw work on the Nonesuch Records debut of breakout Tuareg guitarist Bombino, whose 2011 album "Agadez" was an overlooked gem. Backstage before a Keys’ gig at Staples Center last year, Auerbach told me that the sessions were magical, and that despite the language differences, the two quickly connected over music. Called “Nomad,” Bombino’s forthcoming record arrives April 2.
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