Wednesday 21 March 2018

There's a whole lot of shakin' goin' on

Alabama shakes Boys and Girls (Rough Trade)

Britain's heartbreak bundle, Adele and Led Zep rock god Robert Plant have one thing in common. They both rate this band.

It's scary how fast the buzz has built on this bunch. But it's understandable. They're hot and gutsy.

The Drive-By Truckers have had them on tour. Russell Crowe and Bon Iver are fans. They even have TV chef Jamie Oliver babbling more than usual.

The first thing that strikes you is the voice of Brittany Howard. I had to double check her age (22) because this woman sounds like she could have sung alongside Carla Thomas (who sang with Otis Redding in the 1960s) and Janis Joplin (who departed in 1970).

It's easy to understand how, following the local release of a four-track EP, their future as a band was ensured. Another mini-milestone of note is the recent 7" single release on Jack White's vinyl-only label. But, here's an advance heads up on their soon-to-come 11-track debut album.

Alabama Shakes can possibly be huge. Their sound fits somewhere in the sonic jigsaw that features Kings of Leon, Drive-By Truckers and The Black Keys. Their unerring sense of musical dynamics ensures that, as on the urgent I Found You, it's the notes they leave out that often make you want to hear a song again.

This sort of seemingly effortless musicianship hasn't been heard since Aretha Franklin recorded in Muscle Shoals. But the Shakes aren't throwbacks, echoes of a distant era.

They have an edge that's both timeless and bang up to the minute.

"Bless my heart, bless my soul, I didn't think I'd make it to 22 years old . . ." sings Howard on Hold On. This is singing as exorcism as she teases, squeezes, chews and shoehorns words throughout her repertoire. Heartbreaker rocks. You Ain't Alone will have The Black Crowes wondering how they misjudged things. The title track is a soulful lament about outside interference preventing a relationship from blossoming. Hang Loose is Kings of Leon without the bombast.

Don't miss their gig in the Academy in May.


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