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Around Hear: Black Top

Black Keys May Collaborate With Zz Top, Rick Rubin

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Akron's Black Keys keep finding fans in higher places. The Akron blues-rock duo has been tapped to write material for ZZ Top's first album since 2003. The team-up was the idea of the project's producer, Rick Rubin, a Grammy-winning icon who's worked with Metallica, Johnny Cash, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Run-DMC.

"Rick and Billy [Gibbons, ZZ Top guitarist] were sitting around, listening to Thickfreakness [the Keys' 2003 sophomore LP and Fat Possum debut]," explains Keys drummer Pat Carney. "And [Rubin] said, spiritually, that's how they wanted [the new ZZ Top project] to sound."

Gibbons discovered the Keys at a New York City show in 2005. Carney and bandmate Dan Auerbach have already been to California to meet the classic-rock legends at Rubin's home. The two bands plan to hook up in Texas in November and hash out some material to see if the perfect-on-paper match translates to good chemistry.

"I'm such a big fan of those guys," Gibbons told Billboard. "It makes total sense. And that's pretty down and dirty, which is good for ZZ Top." Carney's excited, but he and Auerbach aren't holding their collective breath.

"We've been in this kind of situation before, and it hasn't happened," says Carney. "We'll see how it goes."

¥ ABC Family has a hit with the weekly drama The Secret Life of the American Teenager, and Akron's Strange Familiar is sharing the success. The band, which features the principle players from Jaded Era, has a new song and video, "Secret Life (You and Me)." The group rushed both into production to coincide with the show's early-September season finale. The clip is part of the early promo campaign for Secret Life's newly announced second season, due in 2009. The video is online at FaceBook.com/SecretLife. The Strange Familiar's "Courage Is …" was part of the show's initial promotions. ABC Family featured its performance video in Secret Life commercials. The exposure helped the band sell more than 39,000 copies of the track via digital outlets, more than 30,000 of them on iTunes. It has become a YouTube sensation, with fans posting covers and homemade montages set to the tune.

¥ Rock the Vote will sponsor three free concerts and voter-registration drives this week. Bang Camaro and DJ Spooky will rock the University of Akron at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, September 24. Santogold plays Case Western at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, September 25. Hawthorne Heights and Benjamin Taylor play Kent State at 5 p.m. Friday the 26th. Visit www.RockTheVote.com for more information. October 6 is the deadline to register.

¥ The Rock Hall exhibit Take Me Out: Baseball Rocks! closes September 28. The display includes baseball-related sheet music, memorabilia, film and songs from Teresa Brewer's 1956 Mickey Mantle tribute "I Love Mickey" to the Baha Men jock jam "Who Let the Dogs Out?" In filmed interviews, Indians such as Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner talk about their earliest experiences with music.

¥ The Mentor Borders (9565 Mentor Ave.) will host a Rock and Roll Carnival on Saturday, September 27. Cleveland music authors, including John Gorman (The Buzzard: Inside the Glory Days of WMMS and Cleveland Rock and Roll, now in paperback) and Scene contributor Carlo Wolff (Cleveland Rock & Roll), will meet, greet and sign books.

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