The Black Keys and Heartless Bastards share more than Ohio roots. The Keys were based in Akron for ages, and Bastards front woman Erika Wennerstrom relocated her band to Austin from Cincinnati some years ago, but now both bands' blue-collar rock-and-roll work ethic is paying real dividends after years and years of heavy gigging. After 2009's The Mountain, the Bastards have just released their second great album in a row, The Arrow (Partisan Music); the close companions blend thundering riffs and moody acoustic moments, anchored by Wennerstrom's wounded but wizened vocals. The new one is perhaps a little more tempered than its predecessor, no doubt testament to the miles (actual and metaphorical) that three more years can put on. It wouldn't be surprising at all to hear Heartless Bastards in the Keys' orbit sometime in the near future – either on the same FM-rock airwaves that the Keys are currently dominating, or actually on tour with Messrs. Auerbach and Carney. In fact, you could almost call both Rust Belt refugees a new kind of classic rock: Bands that stomp and strum like grunge never happened.
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