Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys is an Awesome Producer

We shared news on Monday that blues-rock duo The Black Keys are finished with their follow-up to the freaking great album Brothers, and this week we profiled young Ohio-based singer/songwriter Jessica Lea Mayfield in our print issue, whose latest album Tell Me, along with her previous, With Blasphemy So Heartfelt, was produced by Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach. Mayfield is scheduled to play The Compound Grill Saturday night.

The sonic qualities of Mayfield's albums prompted me to think about exactly how great of a producer Auerbach has established himself to be. Sure, everyone knows he's good at the soulful rasp thing, and that he's one of those rare guitarists who can really play without making the thing about how much he can play, but Auerbach's strengths behind the board -- particularly for releases by Alive Records, have been steadily impressive, too.

Nathaniel Mayer
Auerbach co-produced and played on Nathaniel "Nay Dog" Mayer's last two records, Why Won't You Give It To Me and Why Won't You Let Me Be Black, with the former being released before his death and the latter after. Mayer was an artist who exuded pure soul; his early Fortune Records singles, issued in the early '60s, find him singing energetic doo-wop. The Auerbach-assisted records are another matter entirely -- dark, sticky slabs of blues-and-funk indebted soul.


Hacienda backed Auerbach on his solo album, Keep It Hid, which was pretty good-to-okay. Far better was Hacienda's own release, Big Red & Barbacoa, produced by Auerbach. With pitch-perfect pop songs, the band taps into a heritage that brings to mind Los Bravos, Doug Sahm, and Question Mark and the Mysterians.

Patrick Sweany

When Auerbach locks in step with an artist, he seems to stick around. He produced two Patrick Sweany efforts -- 2006's C'mon, C'mere, and 2007's Every Hour is a Dollar Gone. The sounds aren't out of step with his Black Keys work, but damn if they aren't golden.
Buffalo Killers

Remember when Jim Carrey accepted that MTV Movie Award in 1999 for The Truman Show? And he was dressed as a '70s style hesher who wanted to know if it would kill MTV to "every once in awhile play a little Foghat?" Well, Auerbach and the Cincinnati-based Buffalo Killers certainly got it. Stay tuned for our interview with the Buffalos next week -- they play The Compound Grill on July 28.
Jessica Lea Mayfield

Okay, so far I haven't exactly demonstrated that Auerbach is a varied producer. Most of these jams have shared a certain sensibility. Mayfield's tune "Our Hearts Are Wrong" doesn't exactly veer away from Auerbach's particular sound, but it certainly switches things up, with a restrained, taut groove and some gorgeous, reverb-dripping guitars.

Okay, so this tosses some changes our way, for sure. BlakRoc, a rap/blues/rock hybrid, was produced by Auerbach, Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney, Joel Hamilton, and Damon Dash. It was pretty solid, despite getting panned by a lot of critics. A followup is in the works, reportedly featuring Curren$y and Wiz Khalifa. The slow, absolutely baked delivery of those artists should work well with Auerbach's style.

Dr. John
Okay, so this one is supposing that the rumors that Auerbach is going to produce a new Dr. John offering are true. I sure as hell hope they are -- combine Dr. John, Auerbach and a batch of old soul songs, like this one from Eddie Bo, and I'm welling to bet the results will be flooring. The two collaborated this year at Bonnaroo, and the live videos indicate that an Dr. John album produced by Auerbach would be mighty nice.
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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.