Essential New Music: Dan Auerbach’s “Waiting On A Song”

Dan Auerbach is no longer the visceral guitar strangler that emerged from Akron, Ohio, nearly a decade and a half ago. In that time, he and rhythmic co-conspirator Patrick Carney transformed the Black Keys from raw indie blues duo into full-fledged arena juggernaut, while Auerbach began a solo career, started the Arcs side project, became an in-demand producer and won nine Grammys. Not bad for a Rubber City kid. After his debut solo effort, 2009’s Keysian Keep It Hid, Auerbach moved to Nashville and built his Easy Eye studio. Once he collected the aforementioned belt notches, he took a break from the touring treadmill, produced seven albums and set to work on his sophomore solo record, Waiting On A Song, with some of Nashville’s biggest marquee names.

Self-described as a love letter to Music City, Waiting On A Song launches in classic country fashion with its title track, a chugging, sunshiny, mid-tempo twang-pop rave up. What follows is a mix of Auerbach’s contemporary pop sensibilities poured through a ’60s strings-and-soul countrypolitan filter translated by a superstar dugout, including distinctive turns from Mark Knopfler (the bracing “Shine On Me”), Duane Eddy (the Roy Orbison-esque “King Of A One Horse Town,” “Livin’ In Sin”) and co-writing with Nashville’s most dependable oddball, John Prine, including the title song. In the sense that it directly relates to his feelings about the city of its creation, Waiting On A Song accomplishes Auerbach’s original grand intention.But in its defiance of convention, the album has more in common with the genre-bending and expectation-shattering records of Shelby Lynne and Sturgill Simpson.

—Brian Baker