Alabama Shakes - Boys & Girls
The hype surrounding Alabama Shakes would be enough to make even the most reputable of bands crumble under the pressure. The praise from Jack White and having Russell Crowe attend a London gig before even they even released Boys & Girls - their first full length album - is but a sideshow. Despite the burden of public expectation, the Shakes have gone on to release one of the most refreshingly crafted albums of the year.
Front woman Brittany Howard steals the limelight throughout, her powerful Southern twang soaring above the bluesy riffs to create a vintage sound reminiscent of the 1970s. Howard possesses one of the most unique and memorable voices you will have heard in a long time, howling her heartfelt, bittersweet lyrics across the eleven tracks. Opener ‘Hold On’ is the album highlight, Howard drawling ‘Bless my heart / Bless my soul / Never thought I’d make it / To twenty two years old’ with such raw feeling that it verges into goose bump territory. The pace is maintained into a constant mid-tempo groove across the whole album, managing to do so without losing the listener's interest.
‘Going to the Party’ is almost an interlude, the stripped back guitar-led tune clocking in at just over a minute and a half. However the pause in their rhythmic groove is only momentary, heading full pelt into ‘Heartbreaker’. It is here that Howard’s lyrical prowess becomes obvious, as she asks ‘How was I supposed to know you was a heartbreaker?’ - perhaps not grammatically correct but packed to the brim with genuine emotion.
But it’s not just the Brittany Howard show. Alabama Shakes as a whole are tight knit: the neat drum fills and swaggering southern licks providing an ample backdrop to support the magnitude of her voice. Jump on the Alabama Shakes bandwagon whilst there is still room - they are about to (ahem) shake your musical world upside down.