The Black Keys – “Crawling Kingsnake” (John Lee Hooker Cover)

Joshua Black Wilkins

The Black Keys – “Crawling Kingsnake” (John Lee Hooker Cover)

Joshua Black Wilkins

Earlier this week word got out that the Black Keys are following up their 2019 comeback “Let’s Rock” with Delta Kream, a tribute to the pioneering Mississippi hill country blues musicians that formed the bedrock of their sound, such as R. L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, and Mississippi Fred McDowell. Today the Akron duo has officially announced the project and shared its first single outside the boundaries of their fan club, who’ve been enjoying it for two days now.

The opening track on Delta Kream is a cover of John Lee Hooker’s “Crawling Kingsnake.” It finds Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney (of Cleveland Indians drumming fame) doing what they do best, riding a smoky electric blues groove that gives Auerbach plenty of space to wrangle some emotion out of his guitar.

In a press release, Auerbach writes, “We made this record to honor the Mississippi hill country blues tradition that influenced us starting out. These songs are still as important to us today as they were the first day Pat and I started playing together and picked up our instruments. It was a very inspiring session with Pat and me along with Kenny Brown and Eric Deaton in a circle, playing these songs. It felt so natural.” Carney adds, “The session was planned only days in advance and nothing was rehearsed. We recorded the entire album in about ten hours, over two afternoons, at the end of the ‘Let’s Rock’ tour.”

On “Crawling Kingsnake” in particular, Auerbach says, “I first heard [John Lee] Hooker’s version in high school. My uncle Tim would have given me that record. But our version is definitely Junior Kimbrough’s take on it. It’s almost a disco riff!” And here’s Carney: “We fell into this drum intro; it’s kind of accidental. The ultimate goal was to highlight the interplay between the guitars. My role with Eric was to create a deeper groove.” Mission accomplished! Listen below.

Delta Kream is out 5/14 on Auerbach’s label Easy Eye Sound. Pre-order it here.

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