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Music Review: Alabama Shakes - Boys & Girls

4/11/2012 2:46:18 PM

Tags: Music Reviews, R&B, Soul, Garage Rock, Michael Dregni

 Alabama Shakes - Boys and Girls
Alabama Shakes
Boys & Girls
Available now on Rough Trade (April 10, 2012)

Their sound is as old as rock ’n’ roll, but the Alabama Shakes just might be the next big thing.  

Alt they aren’t. Instead, the Shakes do it the old-fashioned way. Their sound is part Motown, part Stax Records, even part Janis Joplin. And add in a little garage rock attitude. All of which makes them hot stuff.

The band has come out of nowhere to break big. In no time at all, they were named “New Band of the Year” by Paste Magazine, appeared on NPR Music’s list of favorite new artists, and premiered on Conan. And once you give them a listen, you’ll understand why.

alabama shakes

Boys & Girls is the Shakes’ debut, a down-and-dirty mélange of Southern rock, Memphis soul, juke joint blues, and swamp pop—all delivered with a tough punkish vibe. Guitarman Heath Fogg has studied his Booker T & the MGs records. He’s got the riffs and the classic sweet to highlight perfectly the rock-solid R&B groove set by bassist Zac Cockrell and drummer Steve Johnson.

But it’s vocalist Brittany Howard that astonishes. She unleashes songs with a soulfulness that brings up dangerous comparisons with Janis and Aretha. On the band’s standout single, “Hold On,” she moves from a throaty growl to wailing release. “You Ain’t Alone” is a slow-burning torch song while “I Found You” is classic gospel-tinged rock ’n’ roll as only the South can produce.

All of which may earn the Alabama Shakes a label as “alt alt”—an alternative to alternative music. Whatever, Boys & Girls is a welcome return to classic R&B, with all the passion and fire, sound and fury of the greats.

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