I’m listening to Alabama Shakes debut album Boys & Girls and I can only think one thing: Damn. If you have a voice like Brittney Howard’s, there is only one thing the creator of the universe had in store for you, and that is sing, baby. Sing.
‘I Found You’ is one of those songs that ends up on a million mix tapes. It’s sweet, soulful and melancholy sound will make a thousand lovelorn souls sigh and lay their heads on the universe’s shoulder. This isn’t a bunch of Dartmouth dropouts putting on an Al Green record and suddenly thinking they’re modern purveyors of white boy soul. No. Alabama Shakes is the real deal, and they’ve got the golden pipes to prove it. ‘Hang Loose’ will make even the whitest boys and girls want to shake what they got. ‘Rise To The Sun’, with it’s hammond organ, rasta rhythm and chorus that explodes in your ears like Pop Rocks makes you want to stand up and shout at the top of your lungs ” I hurt! I need love, too!”. A song like ‘You Ain’t Alone’ in the hands of any of these other modern day wanna be soul queens would just sound, well, like American Idol Karaoke night at the local sports bar. But in the hands of Brittney Howard and the fellas in Alabama Shakes it sounds like a lost track from Janis Joplin’s Pearl sessions. This girl has got the chops. Tina Turner? Aretha Franklin? Mavis Staples? Janis Joplin? Yeah, she’s right up there with the best of ‘em.
Production-wise, it’s got a nice grit to it. It’s not all spit-shined and prettied up for the masses. This is not retail store box dinner soul music. Sorry Adele, Duffy and whoever else bought Dusty In Memphis and decided to be a singer, you need to go to the back of the line. Alabama Shakes got it covered. Try imagining any of the above mentioned busting out a track like ‘Heartbreaker’ with the same amount of heart and teary-eyed sincerity. There isn’t a plug-in that can create that sort of truth in the voice. And the title track? Southern soul hasn’t been put to tape like that since Muscle Shoals heyday. When Brittney Howard sings “Be mine, baby”, by God you’re gonna seriously consider it.
Alabama Shakes brings the soul, the funk and the groove that will keep you coming back for years to come. The menu titled Boys & Girls is a southern-fried concoction of flavors you’ve tasted in the past, but with some new spices added. Come hungry, and come back often.