Release Date: Apr 10, 2012
Record label: ATO
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, American Trad Rock
It's a girl named Brittany, singing about fighting and fucking and how she "didn't think I'd make it to 22 years old." Run for cover! Actually, Brittany Howard is in total control on the Athens, Alabama, band's debut, rendering garage-R&B revivalism without a shred of irony. These kids haven't been at it long enough to aspire to the songwriting prowess of their Muscle Shoals heroes, and they don't need to; a White Stripes-ian sense of what-the-fuck discovery imbues a debut where even subtle things like "Heartbreaker" swing like wrecking balls. It's like they Spotified up some old Stax records one afternoon, ran down to their basement and filtered them through their innate garage-band drive.
Is anyone else completely in shock that this is Alabama Shakes’ first full-length album? The fanfare that’s surrounded them even before the release of Boys & Girls is unprecedented—sold out shows around the country, feature performances at South by Southwest, and (here’s a sign of the times for you) over 41,000 Facebook fans. Yeah, it’s serious. Somehow, before they’ve even begun, they’ve become the hottest thing since microwavable burritos.
As far as supersonic rises to fame go, Jeremy Lin could stand to learn a thing or two from the Alabama Shakes. In the span of a year, the band has gone hawking their self-titled EP on the Nashville DIY circuit to being the toast of last fall’s CMJ Music Marathon in New York to working on one of the most anticipated full-length debuts in recent memory. Along the way, the Shakes have toured with Drive-By Truckers, provided the soundtrack for a Zales commercial and were named Paste’s 2011 New Band of the Year.
The last year has caught the modest Alabama Shakes by surpise. They rose from a homegrown Athens, Ala., blues rock outfit to a standout new band at both CMJ and SXSW, becoming an Internet-fueled sensation with debut Boys & Girls. Interviews and photos of shows alike display the band in rumpled jeans and wrinkled flannel shirts, casually performing with the same humility and enthusiasm as they would at a backyard barbecue amidst family and friends.
Alabama Shakes are a double rarity in being both absolutely aptly named and absolutely deserving of all their hype. The Jack White-endorsed quintet come from a small town in Alabama. More importantly, they not only shake but also rattle, roll and do everything else to ears and body that the most rumbustious soul-rock and roots music can. However galvanising the licks and riffs of her bandmates, it's 22-year-old frontwoman Brittany Howard and her gloriously sandpaper voice that fire this engine: mighty and crackling enough to warrant thoughts of Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin and Janis Joplin.
ALABAMA SHAKES play Lee’s Palace April 17. See listing. Rating: NNNN There's huge music industry excitement about Alabama Shakes, and once you hear Boys & Girls it's clear why. Singer/guitarist Brittany Howard has one of those spine-tingling soul voices like the ones that sold shitloads of Amy Winehouse and Adele records.
Alabama Shakes' lead singer, guitarist and primary songwriter Brittany Howard began cobbling her band together in high school mostly just for the sake of having a band. It certainly wasn't with the notion of breaking into her hometown's music scene-- in Athens, Ala., there's not much of one to break into. So she and her friends Steve Johnson, Zac Cockrell, and Heath Fogg made do playing cover-band gigs in dive bars, occasionally slipping their raggedy garage-soul originals in among the Led Zeppelin and AC/DC, and eventually making enough to warrant some studio time up in Nashville early last year.
Pitched somewhere between the retro-purist vibe of Sharon Jones and the nervy revivalism of Jack White, Alabama Shakes possesses a curious character: they're rooted in the past but it's clear they've learned their moves musicians removed some three or four generations from the source. Instead of playing like refractions from a hall of mirrors, Alabama Shakes' 2012 debut Boys & Girls emphasizes how American roots music is now grounded in the '60s notion of blues & soul, all filtered through the prism of '70s classic rock. And it's not just that Heath Fogg tears great, gnarled riffs out of his guitar while the rhythm section of Zac Cockrell and Steve Johnson hit the downbeat with a brutal force -- lead singer Brittany Howard phrases like a rock singer, playing up vocal affections with glee, ratcheting up the drama by laying hard into her elongated phrases.
Alabama ShakesBoys & Girls[ATO Records; 2012]By Nicholas Preciado; April 11, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGWith as long as rock and the blues have been around, you’d think the creative output would stop at some point. Yet here we have Alabama Shakes, a band who’s helping to reinvigorate the blues. The band is comprised of vocalist Brittany Howard, bassist Zac Cockrell, drummer Steve Johnson and guitarist Heath Fogg and Boys & Girls is their debut album.
Never underestimate the thirst of the British public for bluesy Americana. We made the Kings Of Leon what they are. We told the White Stripes we liked ‘De Stijl’ long before their own countrymen did. By the time you finish this sentence, Tottenham’s world-beating-mega-diva Adele will have sold another 500 million records by renovating throaty, vintage delta caws for a mum-based audience.
Debut albums by a once obscure Southern blues quartet don’t come any more hyped than this. Through no fault of their own, the foursome has lots to live up to, and while the result doesn’t justify the buildup, there is no doubt that frontwoman Brittany Howard is a major talent. Her vocals have a sweat and whisky soaked swagger that is similar to Janis Joplin, without the latter’s rasp or self-destructive streak.
Thanks in no small part to frontwoman Brittany Howard’s distinctive, throaty warble, it hasn’t taken Alabama Shakes long to develop a rabid following on the Southern club circuit, and the quartet attempts to capture the same sweat-drenched energy of their dynamic live shows and capitalize on the near-deafening industry buzz from their full-length debut, Boys & Girls. It’s probably gauche in a rockist sense to say so, but the album makes a strong case for valuing live performance over studio recordings, at least in the Alabama Shakes’ case: Boys & Girls is a strong debut, but it’s also disappointingly tame at times, robbing the band of what makes them deserving of the attention they’re getting. With its heavy Muscle Shoals influences and ramshackle, limber arrangement, “You Ain’t Alone” plays as the album’s centerpiece, the most complete view of the band’s unique aesthetic and a testament to their technical chops.
It's not difficult to see why the Alabama Shakes have caused a stir. They've provoked a vaguely Lana Del Reyish witch-hunt in the stupider areas of the blogosphere – a very 2012 sign that you're destined for big things. You'd have a hard time arguing that Brittany Howard has anything other than a magnificent voice – she can shift from the heartbroken sensuality of the title track to something that sounds not unlike celebrity Alabama Shakes fan Jack White at full throttle – and the songwriting is decent enough.
Alabama Shakes is a blues-rock group from Athens, AL, that formed in 2009. As such, they missed out on both the original blues-rock explosion of the ’70s (ah, duh) and much of the subsequent revival as facilitated by the likes of The White Stripes and The Black Keys. Even still, their debut LP, Boys & Girls, is a profound submission, one which injects fresh life into the genre while maintaining its blazing spirit.
If you are a No Ripcord regular, I think I can say with certainty that you have heard of Alabama Shakes. With appearances on late-night talk shows, highly circulated single Hold On, and self-titled EP last September, Boys & Girls, the debut LP from the blues-rocking quartet from Athens, Alabama, has been widely anticipated throughout the blogosphere. And like that lead single and those labels “blues-rock” or “southern” suggest, the album touches on gospel and soul to suggest that sour relationships and other hardships will be turned around by force of will.
Remember The Bravery? They did that song ‘An Honest Mistake’? For those of you not thinking 'Hmm, oh yeahhhhhh...' they were going to be The Next Big Thing, a huge band who would follow in the perplexingly successful footsteps of The Killers by, er, sounding almost exactly like them. Like a crap Mystic Meg, NME predicted a similar wildly thriving career for these guys (citation needed, but it sounds like something they would say), with hit after hit soon to be belted out at 'indie' nights. Now in the same vein as The Killers, their contemporaries The Kings of Leon have their own burgeoning Southern States soundalikes in Alabama Shakes.
This Alabama outfit might be the feel-good hit of the summer festival circuit. Martin Aston 2012 When Alabama Shakes played at London’s Boston Arms in February, the media played up Russell Crowe’s attendance. But more prescient and thrilling was the sweaty audience dancing their nads off and, at the after-party, singer Brittany Howard throwing herself around to 20th Century Boy.
Brittany Howard has one of those voices that could persuade a person to do anything. It's a voice that countless other Southern soul singers have possessed, infused with faith in a higher power and consequently, faith in humanity. Howard and the three other impossibly young members of Alabama Shakes shouldn't be able to make music as soulful as what's contained on this debut album, but from the opening vamp of "Hold On," the band demonstrate that they have read (in a manner of speaking) Otis Redding's Dictionary of Soul cover to cover.
UNTIL just seven months ago the singer, songwriter and guitarist Brittany Howard used to get up at dawn for her day job: delivering mail. “I just assumed I was going to work like my parents did till I got old,” she said by telephone from her home in the small town of Athens, Ala. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, though, Ms. Howard, 23, would get together with her band, initially called the Shakes: a bass player she met in high school and a drummer and a guitarist, all from Athens.
It's understandable that the antennae of cynicism start twitching uncontrollably when usually reliable sources of musical opinion are moved to declare on their Facebook, "The ex-guitar player of Loop said on 6 Music this evening that this lot are the best band to come out of the USA since The Strokes. " Leaving aside the laughable benchmark seemingly set by the posh lads from New York, the accompanying link to Alabama Shakes' appearance on Conan O' Brien's talk show revealed less the next step of musical evolution and more what the marketing department was going to serve up next. And that's before Russell Crowe's enthusiastic endorsement is given the once over… Of course, it's a given that once a breakthrough occurs from an unexpected source then the industry will flood the market with any number of ersatz acts and bands.