Saturday, November 27, 2010

Song of the week: The Black Keys' "Meet Me in the City"

So, this song coming a little later in the week (because of Thanksgiving), I'm gonna go with The Black Keys song "Meet Me in the City". Originally an old blues song by the great Junior Kimbrough, The Black Keys covered it on their tribute EP Chulahoma: The Songs of Junior Kimbrough. The Keys had been greatly influenced by Kimbrough and had actually already covered his songs on their first two albums, and eventually decided to just do the Chulahoma EP in 2005, strangely not containing either of the songs they'd covered on their first two albums. Kimbrough's songs had a raw, hypnotic way about them that could remind someone of John Lee Hooker or RL Burnside without too much effort. He was a great artist, and I included his version of the song underneath the Keys' down below.

But this is about the cover version. Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney make up The Black Keys, and you really never miss any instrumentation in their music, even when it's just stripped down to Auerbach's voice and guitar and Carney's drums. They're a force to listen to, raw and dynamic and beautiful and inspiring to me as a fellow musician (last May, when I did my top ten albums of the decade, their Attack and Release ended up at #7). "Meet Me in the City" was one of the first songs of theirs that I heard, and it really grabbed me by the throat on the first listen, but it was because of its tenderness and not because of its energy. The painful love Auerbach has in his voice just killed me after the kind sleepy groove drew me into the opening of the song. The lyrics are simple:

"Meet me, oh momma, in the city
And see everything is so fine
We'll get together now, darlin'
Oh yes we will
We'll make everything alright
Now honey don't
Oh honey don't

Please, please don't leave me right now, baby
Right now, right now
Oh no no no

You got me, baby
You got me, darlin'
You got me where you want me, baby
Girl, I know you are satisfied
Still begging you, baby
Don't leave me here

Please, please don't leave me
Right now baby, right now, right now
Oh no no no"

But the way Auerbach infuses them with so much yearning and hope and pain is astounding. Sometimes the simplest things can evoke our most basic human emotions better than anything else can. It's songs like "Meet Me in the City" that typify the blues as a genre of all of our essential humanity. And when it can be delivered to us by artists as great as Junior Kimbrough or The Black Keys, it makes all that deeper of an impact.

The Black Keys' version

Junior Kimbrough's original

No comments: