Nashville's Station Inn is used to being filled to the brim with bluegrass and old time players, but last night Dan Auerbach packed so many legends into the historic venue that the existing confines of the stage ware barely big enough to hold them all.
"We had to make an addition," the Black Keys singer-guitarist said in a black suit and turquoise bolo tie, flanked by John Prine band member Pat McLaughlin, Nick Bockrath from Cage the Elephant on guitar, vocalists Ashley Wilcoxson and Leisa Hans, drummer Gene "Bubba" Chrisman (whose credits include everyone from Elvis to Aretha Franklin to George Strait) and Dave Roe, onetime bassist for Johnny Cash. "It looks like we broke a record."
Auerbach was celebrating the release of his second solo LP, Waiting on a Song (out June 2nd) which finds him partnering up with Prine, McLaughlin, Richard Swift and Cash engineer David Ferguson on writing duties in a tribute of sorts to his adopted Tennessee home. Though the Keys are known primarily for their infusion of blues, Auerbach actually grew up on bluegrass – so the Station Inn, a bluegrass outpost, was an appropriate place to fuse his old and new. And Nashville's past and present, too.
Kicking things off with the title track, Auerbach invited a slew of players to join him on stage, all whom also make appearances on the record – Jerry Douglas (in a Nashville Predators shirt) on "Never in My Wildest Dreams"; Del McCoury on Bill Monroe's "Can't You Hear Me Calling?" ("Del knows a little something about Bill Monroe," joked Auerbach about McCoury, who once played in the father of bluegrass's band); and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Duane Eddy, who added some signature rockabilly guitar to "King of a One Horse Town" alongside a string section led by Matt Combs.
"Working with Dan Auerbach in the recording studio has been great for me. His infectious excitement reminded me of how much fun it can be," Eddy tells Rolling Stone Country. "I haven't come across a more prolific songwriter, or a harder working artist in many years, if ever. But the best thing about him is that he's become a really good friend."
Auerbach played every track from Waiting on a Song, along with two selections from his first solo LP Keep It Hid – "Trouble Weighs a Ton" and "Goin' Home," with which he closed the show. In the walls of the Station Inn, the songs sounded even more lush than the recordings and Auerbach, who has often spoken about how he prefers creating in the studio to performing live, seemed more comfortable than ever, occasionally dissolving into a solo but letting the players surrounding him hold just as much of the spotlight.
"So long, I'm goin', goin' home," he sang alone before disappearing off stage to join his friends outside in the Nashville night.