When I was making my 2011 list of top 5 albums I gave an honorable mention to a four song EP from a little band called Alabama Shakes. Four months later that same little band was adding a third NYC tour date after selling out both the Bowery Ballroom and Music Hall of Williamsburg in a matter of minutes. That third show, April 10 at The Studio in Webster Hall, was one of the best I’ve ever seen. The band tore through most of its debut, Boys and Girls which was officially released the day of the show, in terrific fashion. Tunes that were already vibrant and alive in recording sprang to new, vivid, rollicking life and the record’s take on old school rhythm and blues was a roller coaster of emotional strain and cathartic release. On top of this material the band played tracks from the “Heavy Chevy” 7-inch and a new song, all of which were straight ahead, Chuck Berry style rockers that had the whole room shaking.
The players in the band – guitarist Heath Fogg, drummer Steve Johnson, bassist Zac Cockrell and touring keyboardist “Styrofoam” Jones – are all fine musicians, but the story here is guitarist/singer Brittany Howard. I’ve never seen an emerging performer equal to her, and the energy she brings to every sweetly crooned high note, each low bass roll, and each biting, visceral wail is unreal. The rest of the Shakes are a great foundation, but it’s Howard who makes the Earth move.
STREAM: Alabama Shakes – “Hold On”