Just like the way Raphael Sadiiq’s style time travels to the wonderful days of the 1950s and ’60s, importing a big band style with muffled vocal screeches into an Elvis-style microphone, Alabama Shakes wind the clock backward and take us to better times of music when everything was successfully expressive.
Alabama Shakes proclaim in Boys & Girls that they have a classic Southern flare that is raw and appealing. The rightful placement of effect on guitar and other instrumentals including the voice helps reel in listeners, charmed by intelligence of sound and irony of style.
It’s hard not to like them — especially noting that their main vocalist fails to hide her smile in nearly every performance and photograph. Her brightness transcends into her music, producing an incredibly lively tone amidst lyrics of heartbreak and distress. Lead single and first song “Hold On” is a testament of this even early on.
The band’s ability to win over live audiences was essential to their early success, which has already taken them to “Conan” on national television positioned them among other up-and-coming artists in recent top-ten lists. Without releasing any full-length material or producing much music at all, the band generated enough steam to earn them substantial notoriety.
“You Ain’t Alone” is the perfect representation of this radiance. It opens slowly and quietly, allowing for disheartened vocals to tell the story mostly on its own. It blooms into a rock-heavy tale of loneliness that is backed by the spirit of great artistry. Listen to it twice.
Something in the way vocalist Brittany Howard spits her words can both melt and mold the minds and hearts of listeners who hang on the execution of her syllables. Admirably, too, is her performance among three men behind her, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings style. She fronts the band with great strength and power. Other bands need to take a note from this infant group.
They really know what they’re doing.
“Heartbreaker” is soulful and full of successfully pained energy, which leads us to believe that that the songwriting of the band was paired with the right match of instrumental work to send the message home.
It isn’t just Howard’s heavy vibrato and raspy southern vocal twang that causes Alabama Shakes to produce the sounds of their namesake. Audibly organic guitar pats and bluesy guitar grooves turn back time, too, making for a greatly vintage effect. The band is classified as Americana and Blues Rock, but their infectiously beautiful energy can attract listeners from all ends of the spectrum. It’ll take listeners back to the days of original R&B with Ray Charles and Otis Redding, which is always a comfortable place to turn back to. This is a success of Boys & Girls as a whole, reinforcing the fact that a mere 36 minutes of music is far too quick to get the Shakes fix.
The bottom line: It’s good shit and there should be more of it. Not just within the means of the album, but in the industry as a whole. Like we said before, even experienced artists should take note. Talent doesn’t equal experience, and Alabama Shakes defy the standards that dictate this.