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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. Which isn't to say Alabama Shakes ignores the straight stuff: much of Boys & Girls is anchored in a Southern soul groove spliced from Stax and Muscle Shoals, the guitars of Fogg and Howard full and bold in their cleanly chopped rhythms, echoing the work of Steve Cropper and Jimmy Johnson. But Alabama Shakes aren't purists, they're modern -- they splice familiar sounds and forms together, then reshuffle them in subtly surprising ways. Unlike White or his Great Lakes cousins the Black Keys, Alabama Shakes aren't entirely enamored with what they can re-create in the studio -- they're too attached to the power of a live performance, making them an ideal candidate for a T-Bone Burnett or Joe Henry production somewhere down the road -- but they bear no special allegiance to the didactic needs of retro-rock. Their roots are just that -- roots, not anchors, allowing the group to grow, often in unexpected and quietly thrilling ways.
Performance CreditsAlabama Shakes Primary Artist
Paul Horton Organ,Piano,farfisa organ,fender rhodes
Steve Johnson Percussion,Drums,Background Vocals,Group Member
Micah Hulscher Organ,Piano
Mitch Jones Organ
Ben Tanner Organ,Piano
Brittany Howard Guitar,Percussion,Piano,Vocals,Group Member
Zac Cockrell Bass,Guitar,Background Vocals,Group Member
Heath Fogg Guitar,Percussion,Background Vocals,Group Member
Technical CreditsKevin Morris Management
Brett Kilroe Art Direction
Ben Ayres Publicity
Ambrosia Healy Publicity
Christine Stauder Management
Andrija Tokic Producer,Engineer
Erin Cooney Publicity
Alabama Shakes Composer,Producer
Jamie Woolgar Publicity
Camille Augarde Publicity
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The Alabama Shakes have only been around for a few years. In fact, their lead singer, Brittany Howard, is only 22 years old. Yet, this band plays with the fiery intensity of an Atlantic/Stax group from the late 1960's. And Brittany? Well, some have compared her to Janis Joplin. But she's got the voice of a huskier, smokier Macy Gray and she can play guitar with the best of them. "Boys and Girls" is their first album and if Phil Spector ever got around to making an album of soulful Southern music, it might have sounded like this: a Wall of Sound with thunderous guitars and a bodacious, emotional female singer leading the way. Judging from their material, which they all wrote, Brittany Howard is a very spiritual person. Howard writes and sings of God and hope in the rousing opener, "Hold On" and the touching climax, "On Your Way". Yet, when The Alabama Shakes barnstorm through a Muscle Shoals-type rocker like "I Found You", it's hard to tell if Brittany is singing about God or a boyfriend. Then again, with music this tremendous, it really doesn't matter. Already a contender for one of the best new bands of 2012, The Alabama Shakes, like many of the artists for Daptone Records, are bringing back classic soul music to the masses in a big way. As for Brittany Howard, she's a singer to be reckoned with. But let's not forget about the band.
One of the best bands to come around in years. I'm a big Drive by Truckers fan and these guys (and gal) are right up there with them. Soulful and sincere. I'd give it 10 stars if I could.