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Critics' Choice
KEYS TO THE HILL COUNTRY BLUES
5/11/21

By Bud Scoppa

Spotify’s scintillating new playlist Hill Country Blues is now streamable, with the inaugural list co-curated (in collaboration with either humans or algorithms) by The Black Keys. The Hill Country Blues playlist illuminates the history and heritage of an exotically funky subgenre indigenous to Northern Mississippi that inspired The Black Keys back in their Akron days and comes full circle with their new covers album, Delta Kream, out Friday on Nonesuch.

The playlist includes two tracks from the LP, including a kickass falsetto reimaging of from R.L. Burnside’s “Going Down South” featuring incendiary slide work from local hero Kenny Brown, alongside classic and obscure cuts from the likes of Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Little Jr. Parker, Jessie Mae Hemphill, T-Model Ford and Robert Belfour

If we’d been co-curating with Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney, we would’ve insisted on a selection or three from modern-day perpetuators the North Mississippi Allstars, but perhaps they’ll get a shot when the list turns over. 

"There would be no Black Keys without this music,” Dan and Pat readily acknowledge. “Hill Country Blues represents the concentric circle where we crossed over musically as teenagers. Artists like Junior Kimbrough, R.L. Burnside, Mississippi Fred McDowell and T-Model Ford are heroes to us. We made Delta Kream with Kenny Brown and Eric Deaton to remember where we come from and celebrate the music we love. The raw sound of Hill Country Blues and songs represented on this list are some that kept us going in those early days of touring, driving all night in the van. We hope fans can do a deep dive on these artists and realize how important they are to the canon of American Music.”