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Central African Rep
Own Boys & Girls on Kalahari
Album of the Week: The Alabama Shakes
Viantha Naidoo | Wed, 06 Jun 2012
Boys & Girls
You Ain’t Alone, Heartbreaker, I Found You, Goin’ to the Party
Sounds a bit like: Led Zeppelin, James Brown, Bo Diddley, Free, Janis Joplin, Otis Redding
Like a lot of people who really love music, I’m a lover of authenticity. I’ll choose awkward truths over easy rhymes, and straining voices over auto-tune, any day of the week. Fifteen-year-old pop singers who think getting grounded is a major emotional experience are not going to cut it.
And, like many of these fine folks who really love music, I tire myself out worrying about the state of music, and where things are going. But you know what? My mind is now at ease. Don’t panic, everyone: The Alabama Shakes are here, and everything’s gonna be alright.
Lead singer Brittany Howard is a revelation. Her capacity for 1960s tortured soul is effortless, and her vocals are both rootsy and otherworldly in the way that the best soul singers’ often are. This makes her the sort of performer who remarkable singers like Adele and Amy Winehouse have spent their careers emulating, and yet she’s only just arrived.
The Alabama Shakes are not a clean-cut soul outfit, though. Their sound is a complex, knotted, Southern braid of blues rock, Americana, soul and garage rock - drawing on the best of each.
Says the lead singer: “Retro soul is not what we’re going for, though it’s understandable why people say it. We take inspiration from that, but we all understand Black Sabbath too.
After impressing blogger Justin Gage of
The Aquarium Drunkard
enough for him to post the extraordinary
You Ain’t Alone
in 2011, the band describe their success as taking place “overnight”.
“I woke up the next day to emails from record labels, managers and publishing companies,”
Howard. “At first I thought, everybody’s making a mistake!”
They were signed in November 2011, and it’s been a whirlwind of attention for The Alabama Shakes ever since. They dropped their debut album on 1 April 2012, and have already appeared on Letterman, Conan and Jools Holland, and become besties with Jack White.
Boys & Girls
, there’s no affectation, no posing, no vocal runs and no gloss. There’s a rawness on the record that’s really exciting for fans of soul, who’ve been subjected to the overproduced, undernourished wannabes of recent years without respite.
is classic Americana, with a traditional country riff and enough 1960s girl group stylings in the vocals and drums to conjure an imagined movie montage of Bridget Jones running after Mark Darcy.
(my personal favourite) is what would’ve happened if
the Gibb brothers had given Dionne Warwick’s hit
to Janis Joplin instead. It’s agonised and haunting, with layers of keyboards and rhythm guitar building to grand, emotional peaks.
I’m happily sticking my neck out on this one –
Boys & Girls
is our Album of the Week, easily the album of the year so far, and it might even be the album that restores your faith in music.
Own it on
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