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Dan Auerbach, one of two founders of The Black Keys, also maintains an active side business as a producer for other bands that share his love for blues- and country-influenced rock. Auerbach's production work can be heard on two new records: Hacienda's third album, Shakedown, and the major-label debut of JEFF The Brotherhood, titled Hypnotic Nights.
Hacienda's brand of bluesy rock is different from the bluesy rock its producer makes with The Black Keys, but it's in the ballpark. Indeed, Auerbach seems attracted to working with guys who play relatively fast, rather simple and occasionally loud.
JEFF The Brotherhood consists of the brothers Jake and Jamin Orrall, who hail from Nashville and churn up heavy rock riffs — they even include a cover of Black Sabbath's "Changes" on their new album, Hypnotic Nights. What Auerbach does for both bands is to clarify their sounds; to push the vocals more prominently up in the mix and make sure the riffs become grooves that surge along for the entire, usually brief length of any given song.
What distinguishes these two bands? Where Jeff the Brotherhood leans toward '70s and '80s punk, Hacienda favors '60s-style rock, as when the band filches the hook from The Kinks' "You Really Got Me" to form the centerpiece of "Don't Keep Me Waiting."
Neither of these bands has any profound insights to share in its lyrics. Hacienda tends to play the romantic victim, in songs such as "You Just Don't Know," "Veronica" and "Don't Keep Me Waiting." JEFF The Brotherhood can often be a scene-setter — it likes to put you in a mellow mood. And in "Hypnotic Winter," its members simply describe the weather and, with a firmly repetitive guitar riff and a few simple phrases, hypnotize you into winter mode.
If both Hacienda and JEFF The Brotherhood are working in Black Keys territory — keeping the sound stripped down, recalling various earlier eras of rock — they're each helped, by producer Auerbach, to achieve an ideal version of themselves. For JEFF The Brotherhood, country life inspires contemplation even as it's reduced to a few chords and a harmonic growl. In Hacienda's case, its members are sensitive romantics with a burly side. Boys will be boys will be boys, with or without girls to keep them emotionally honest.