Playing Possum

The Black Keys score a deal with a blues powerhouse.

The Hours
Boot Camp Clik, rocking the Agora on January 12. - Walter  Novak
Boot Camp Clik, rocking the Agora on January 12.

While we're sure it pales in comparison to topping our prestigious year-end local best-of list a couple of weeks back, the Black Keys have recently signed a deal with the blues badasses at Fat Possum Records. Black Keys singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach once traveled to Mississippi for tutelage from blues great T-Model Ford -- one of Fat Possum's signature acts -- so the move makes sense for the Keys, despite the attention they've received from a variety of major labels.

"We just decided it wasn't going to be positive for us in any way," Auerbach told, explaining the band's decision to go the indie route. "I think we got a great deal, and I think we're going to be in a place where Fat Possum understands us more than any major ever would."

Indeed, their rough-edged, world-weary blues makes the Keys a welcome fit with the rest of Possum's roster, which also includes R.L. Burnside, Bob Log III, and dozens of others. The band has already earned rave reviews for its first album, The Big Come Up, from both The Village Voice and Rolling Stone. The Keys' Possum debut, Thickfreakness, was recorded in one 14-hour day and is due for release on April 8. In the meantime, they'll be opening for Sleater-Kinney on the band's U.S. tour, which begins in February.

Cleveland native/squeezebox extraordinaire LynnMarie, "the Dixie Chick of Polka," has garnered her second Grammy nod in the Best Polka Album category for her latest, The Polka Record. LynnMarie was up for the same award in 2000. Thankfully, this begins to help us deal with the sting of Nelly's inexplicable five nominations.

A new spinoff band featuring members of Mushroomhead, Dog Fashion Disco, Unified Culture, and the Original Pranksta has been laying down tracks at the Mars recording complex in Streetsboro. Operating under the misleading moniker the Altar Boys, the group has plans for a midsummer debut on Mushroomhead's SDMC label.

Vitallus, a young rock three-piece from North Olmsted, took home the first-place prize of $2,500 in the "Rock About the Roll" contest sponsored by Duck brand duct tape. The group's song, "I Never Get Stuck," beat out 163 other entries from 33 states and Canada. Maybe all that cash will help Vitallus, you know, stick around.

A release date has been set for Party of Helicopters' much anticipated debut for Atlanta-based Velocette Records, which is also home to such notables as Jucifer and Beulah. The band's latest, Please Believe It, will drop March 11.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has announced a new U2 exhibit, In the Name of Love: Two Decades of U2, which will open February 8. With U2 photos, instruments, concert fashions, original lyric manuscripts, and more spread out over four floors, the exhibit promises to be every bit as big as Bono's ego.

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