Dan Auerbach seems unusually giddy on his second solo album. Of course any artist in his position—one-half of a marquee band, known as one of today’s producers of choice and a nine-time GRAMMY winner to boot—ought to have reason for celebration regardless. Yet the celebratory stance Auerbach shares on Waiting On A Song is a sound so uncommonly upbeat and effusive it has to do with much more. It is, in a sense, his love letter to Nashville and the artists that he’s worshipped from afar. It’s a star-studded gathering, and clearly a credit to his own pedigree that he’s managed to get them all involved.
Those names alone offer an inducement. The title track was co-written with John Prine. Legendary guitarist Duane Eddy makes a rare appearance on a pair of tracks: the delightfully devious “Livin’ in Sin” and a breezy “King of a One Horse Town.” Mark Knopfler adds his fretwork on the contagiously catchy “Shine on Me.” It’s a superstar summit and, we would imagine, one more reason for Auerbach’s enthusiasm.
Still, none of that expertise would account for anything if the music didn’t measure up to the talent. The buoyantly upbeat “Malibu Man,” the infectious “Shine on Me,” the easy lope of “Never In My Wildest Dreams” and the sparkling title track all reflect Auerbach’s undeniably positive attitude. Indeed, in anyone else’s hands, Waiting might be dismissed as a mere dalliance with lighthearted pop frivolity. Yet given Auerbach’s resume, this becomes an avenue for expressing unfiltered emotions without the need to prove anything otherwise.
That, after all, is reason enough to take a solo turn, to share a personal perspective that relates to no universe other than one’s own. These songs are so unabashedly enthusiastic in the most basic sense, they would not only sound out of place on a Black Keys record. Right at the outset, Auerbach shares his sentiments succinctly: “I’ve been picking, I’ve been strumming, I can almost hear one coming/I’ve been waiting on a song.”
That song — these songs — are inspired by seemingly little more than pure unencumbered joy. Which is a hard quality to come by these days. It’s nice to have something that’s so contagious it can rub off on us all.