With Brittany Howards voice turning alot of heads, Alt-Country/Rock/Soul group Alabama Shakes took to a 3 night sold out stint at London's Boston Arms, the same venue that White Stripes cut their wares in the UK the first time round. I was lucky enough to be there to check them out (and report back to y'all!).
Newly signed to Rough Trade this 5 piece very much meet at the crossroads of country, rock and soul, and have already had exposure from a couple of TV syncs and the release of a 12" EP. This and various pieces in the national press, have made this college start up from Athens Alabama the hottest property of the moment.
With her corkscrew hair and commanding song, singer Howard is the centre of attention with heavily bearded bass player Zac Cockrell and second lead guitarist Heath Fogg playing around her, eyes closed, as if dreaming about their native hometown. The music spills out in this texan styled venue to the expectant crowd. On the drums Steve Johnson adds extra frills in here and there, breaking up the beat where it was necessary and rolling to retain the groups jumpy groove.
In the quieter moments Britanny Howards voice moves from that of a street preacher in full flow to the quavering, fragile and world weary. Her ability to control her oration in this way is what sets her apart- that and her excellent guitar playing skills were mesmerising.
Half way through the gig I smell playdough, then i look down and remember that I was holding a fistful of tic-tacs given to me by my friend Pete and the sweat on my palms had reacted with it. That was really the only distraction to this compelling gig, alas I digress :)..
The hammond organ (one of my favourite instruments ever), sounds as powerful as if it was stolen from a James brown gig circa 1963 and not returned. By the hour mark, almost everyone was in the mood for a bit of a jive and dance around. Their first record Hold On gets the biggest reaction through association, and the band construct songs from quiet murmurs to the full rock out on every other track. Before the encore a cheeky T-Rex cover then a final flourish: two rock & roll tracks just to send the message home, that this band are rock, roll, soul, funk and country, rolled into one heck of a tight outfit.
Alabama Shakes debut LP is released on April 9th::