Label: ATO (U.S.), Rough Trade (UK)
Release Date: April 9, 2012
The worst thing you can say about Boys & Girls, the debut album from the Alabama Shakes, is that it’s a rehash of the classic 60’s southern soul that originated in places like Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and Memphis Tennessee. But that’s hardly surprising given the proximity of the band’s hometown (Athens, Alabama) to both Muscle Shoals (approx. 46 miles) and Memphis (approx. 200 miles) where Stax Records originated. Indeed, “Boys & Girls” is a concise collection of wonderfully crafted songs that reflect the band’s gritty but soulful influences.
Manning the vocals is the uniquely talented Brittany Howard. Armed with a big voice to match her stout frame, Howard’s voice is unique. Husky, throaty, if not androgynous, her voice has a timbre that is hers and hers alone. It is a style that is always passionate, as Howard draws upon her emotions in a way that most vocalists are unable to do. She’s aided by guitarist Heath Fogg, bassist Zac Cockrell, and drummer Steve Johnson, who together, make up a sound that reflects a maturity beyond their years as musicians.
Ultimately, Boys & Girls is heavy on the classic soul. But characterizing it as a soul album alone is misleading; these kids still manage to rock it out (check out “Hang Loose” and “On Your Way”). In fact, the first time I heard the album, it made me wonder what the Black Keys might sound like with a female vocalist. Now I know why: the Black Keys recorded their last album Brothers at the Muscle Shoals studio.
Select Cuts: Rise to the Sun, I Found You, I Ain’t the Same, Be Mine, Heartbreaker, On Your Way