The Black Keys’ cover of “Poor Boy a Long Way From Home”, originally recorded by R.L. Burnside in 1978, sees the band returning to their original, stripped-back, shimmering blues sound, offered as an homage to the North Mississippi artists they cite as their earliest and ongoing inspiration. The latest single off their blues covers album, Delta Kream, the track is full of low-slung, chugging, jangly guitar-work, trucking percussive grooves, and longing, sleazy, raw and powerful vocals - just the way the blues should be.
The Black Keys do an excellent job of blending their unmistakable, authentic sound with the sincere, traditional feel of the classic hill country blues masters, such as Junior Kimbrough, John Lee Hooker, and Big Joe Williams. Trading in their usual postmodern production filigree for a more pared-down, simple approach that focuses solely on outstanding musicianship, the band is backed by Burnside’s guitarist Kenny Brown and Kimbrough’s bassist Eric Deaton throughout the album.
“Poor Boy a Long Way From Home” breathes new life into an old-school, nostalgic classic, and cements it as a consistently relevant and exquisitely written song. The blues are back, baby! And if The Black Keys have anything to do with it, they’re here to stay.