The Alabama Shakes are a revelation — a garage rock band from a small town in Alabama with a singer (Brittany Howard) who manages to channel the intensity, sass and soul of Janis Joplin. The band cites the rhythmic rock of AC/DC and Black Sabbath as influences alongside R&B crooning from Charles Bradley and the Afro-Soul of Budos Band. The common thread is “anything with power in it”.
And that was exactly the word I was left with after watching them play live. They are a powerhouse as a unit with a sense of urgency that keeps you entirely fixated. I can’t say enough good things, frankly. Lyrically, musically and as performers they show every indication that they will be one of the biggest bands of 2012.
And if they’re not, something is wrong with rock ‘n’ roll.
There is definitely a life-affirming, gospel vibe to their music and when I asked Brittany for a female musical icon, it wasn’t surprising to hear her pick was Sister Rosetta Tharp, because “she shreds on guitar”.
“Hold On” is the obvious “hit” single but there isn’t a dud in the bunch, from the boogie woogie of “Mama” to the song “Be Mine”, which Brittany introduced as “my jam”.
The band has been the subject of lots of hype – all well deserved – but said it didn’t hit home until they had to quit their jobs (with Brittany adding – “I had a good job you guys!”)
After their live set on Morning Becomes Eclectic (from the Village, since we’re setting up for our pledge drive here in the basement), it was clear they are enjoying the ride. When I asked Brittany what they do in the tour van to pass the time, she showed me a drawing they all had worked on together, passing it around. A keytar lizard man. (check it out below)
Their show at the Troubadour tonight is sold out so check out their session in the archives to get a taste of the magic!
I Found You
I Ain’t the Same
Goin’ to the Party
Boys & Girls
Rise to the Sun