“Bless my heart, bless my soul, didn’t think I’d make it to 22 years old, there must be somebody up above, saying a come on Brittany you got to come on up.” – Alabama Shakes
…and so begins, the Alabama Shakes’ first release Boys and Girls, not with a whimper but with bang – perhaps a fitting repartee to April’s cruelness – and what a bluesy, soulful, blissful bang. The first arresting element of this band/record is the sheer power and wonder that is Brittany Howard’s voice – a latter day Janis Joplin blues-rock tinged with both the gospel flair of Aretha and the country-folk wail and sorrow of Dusty “Son of Preacher Man” Springfield. In other words, her singing is mesmerizing and captivating – I am already starting to wear out the groves on this record based on so many repeated listening. The music itself combines blues, country, gospel, and soul into a truly euphoric reverie, the sort of record to whittle away a sun-drenched, humid summer day with good friends over drinks and laughter. However, it’s not like you’ve haven’t never heard this music before. You’ve heard the plaintive, lovelorn ballad from Otis Redding. You’ve heard the jammy-corner-stompin’ folk from CCR. In fact, you’ve probably heard a house band in a small club or bar in some corner pocket of this country and got caught up in the immediacy and intimacy of the music thinking to yourself: “Now this, this is it, this is what music is supposed to feel like.” But the catch is always that you can never bring that live and real moment back home. Well, Alabama Shakes do and do so with a vibrant, intoxicating energy. If you are a fan of the previously mentioned singers and/or Southern Roots Rock, you will be smiling pretty to this album.
(P.S. For anyone who has been following music blogs or podcasts over the past six months, you know these guys are the darlings of the critics and pundits. Now this isn’t always a good indicator of broad appeal, but in this case, fully warranted. If you can catch them live (which might be hard considering almost every show in the U.S. is sold out (wow!), see here) don’t hesitate.)
And speaking of Soul and Blues… Here is some exciting news about a Numero Group Pop Store in Chicago on Record Store Day at the Empty Bottle, plus tune your radio dial on Saturday, April 21st to WTNG 89.9 — please tell me that some of you still have one, or just tell me lies, sweet little lies. (For those of you who haven’t heard me rave about the archaeological-music-treasure-trove of the Numero Group releases, don’t worry, I’ll be discussing in the near future. But if you are curious, you can do your own spelunking here or come on by my house and listen with me, I’ve only got about 20 or so releases, peanuts really).
..and one last note. If he’s coming to your town, go see Boise, Idaho‘s1 Youth Lagoon (aka Trevor Powers). Emerging on stage like a mix of the boyish 60s Bob Dylan with Dylan’s signature ragged 1970s curly afro (circa Desire), Trevor played a precise (albeit brief, hey he’s only got one album!) set capturing the intimacy of his bass heavy dream pop to the sold out Metro crowd. What impressed me the most is how easily he transformed the delicate, bedroom-chamber lo-fi brilliance of his debut Year in Hibernation (one of my favorite records of 2011, if you haven’t listen here) into a full on barrage of sound. Now, the big question, as my friend so aptly posed as we were leaving, is can he take his very unique and recurring formula to the next level? Time will tell, but for now, he is a can’t miss act for 2012.
1 According to the dude behind me at the show you (a) “don’t get any more Hipster than Boise, Idaho” and (b) “[Boise] is basically like being in Canada”.
I have two responses to that dude:
(1) It’s not “hipster” to be from Boise. It’s hipster to move to “Boise”, start a band/commune/artist colony because you want to get back to “the country” and “get out of the rat race”, and get two cats and name them BKLYN and DUMBO.
(2) Chicago is closer to Canada and/or the Canadian Border (343 miles) than Boise (819 miles). Yes, I Googlemapped (it’s word… now) it – I’m nothing if not thorough.
So in both cases, random dude, please do your homework before opening your mouth about that which you know nothing. (For the record, I didn’t say anything during the show. No need to harsh his mellow.)