TERRY GROSS, HOST:
Dan Auerbach, one of two founders of the band The Black Keys, also maintains an active sideline as a producer for other bands that share his love for blues- and country-influenced rock 'n' roll. 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." Rock critic Ken Tucker has a review of both albums.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LET ME GO")
HACIENDA: (Singing) Ooh la la, ooh la la, ooh la la la. Let me go. Let me go. The morning paper is filled with nothing to say. I will look away if you tell me so. Let me go. Ooh la la, ooh la la, ooh. Oh, let me go.
KEN TUCKER: That's Hacienda, the Texas quartet, with "Let Me Go," a typical example of their brand of bluesy rock which is different from the bluesy rock their producer Dan Auerbach 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.
Listen to "Six Pack," from JEFF The Brotherhood, a duo whose new album Auerbach has co-produced.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SIX PACK")
JEFF THE BROTHERHOOD: (Singing) Let's load the car up. I got a bag of ice. I got a six pack and I don't want to go back.
TUCKER: JEFF The Brotherhood consists of the brothers Jake and Jamin Orrall, who hail from Nashville but are not a country act. Instead, they churn up heavy rock riffs. They even include a cover of Black Sabbath's "Changes" on their new album, "Hypnotic Nights." What Dan 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 the Hacienda song "Don't Keep Me Waiting."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DON'T KEEP ME WAITING")
HACIENDA: (Singing) To know her is to love her. To show is to care down deep inside. Been here waiting. It's just my time. To care and not to follow, ringing through my ear, I'm too weak. When she passes, I can't turn my cheek. Baby, don't you keep me waiting. Baby, don't keep me waiting. Baby, don't you keep me waiting. Don't get me wrong, I can't wait for too long.
TUCKER: 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 scene-setters. As we heard before, they like to put you in a mellow mood. And on this song, "Hypnotic Winter," they simply describe the weather and, with a firmly repetitive guitar riff and a few simple phrases, hypnotize you into winter mode.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HYPNOTIC WINTER")
BROTHERHOOD: (Singing) Red leaves, dead trees, and I need to ooh, ooh. Cold breeze on me. Cold feet and ooh, ooh. Ahh.
TUCKER: If both Hacienda and JEFF The Brotherhood are working in Black Keys territory - keeping the sound stripped down, harking back to 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 their contemplative aspect, even as they reduce it to a few chords and a harmonic growl. In Hacienda's case, they're sensitive romantics with a burly side. Boys will be boys will be boys, with or without girls to keep them emotionally honest.
GROSS: Ken Tucker is editor-at-large at Entertainment Weekly. He reviewed two albums: "Shakedown" from Hacienda and "Hypnotic Nights" from JEFF The Brotherhood. You can download podcasts of our show on our website freshair.npr.org and you can follow us on Twitter at nprfreshair and on Tumblr at nprfreshair.tumblr.com. I'm Terry Gross.