A lot can get lost in translation. It happens more often than we realize. For example: a book made into movie, emotions/thoughts put into words on paper, and sometimes a band’s live presence when they cut a studio album. It just doesn’t seem the same. Like something’s missing.
The Alabama Shakes are one of the hottest acts in music right now, and after their performance on the Conan O’Brien Late Show, the world received a taste of the raw, Bama soul that sounds oh-so-sweet live. I had heard about the group from my friend John Thompson, co-owner of Callaghan’s Irish Social Club (Mobile, Ala.), after they performed at his venue last November.
On April 10, the Shakes are scheduled to release their debut album “Girls & Boys” (available now for pre-order). Not only is this a major milestone for the group, but also the time where audiences will find out if the group can bottle that same live sound and somehow reproduce it in the studio.
From the first lick of the opening track Hold On, the Alabama Shakes deliver something unexpectedly brilliant. The recording of this album captures the powerful, unprocessed sound this group is know for producing live, helping set the tone for this Southern Rock/Soul masterpiece.
The consistency of Brittany Howard’s vocals throughout the album is terrific. Howard really puts her pipes on display, showing her dynamic range in the notes/tones she hits, some of which are reminiscent to Soul singers of the past such as Bettye LaVette, Aretha Franklin and Etta James.
While the vocals and lyrics play a critical role in the albums worth, neither would be nearly as poignant if it weren’t for the music surrounding them.
Heath Fogg (guitarist), Howard (vocals/guitar), Zac Cockrell (bassist) and Steve Johnson (drummer) do a fantastic job of creating an varied track list, covering a wide spectrum of genres from Blues to Country and Rock to Soul, all the while making each one truly something of their own.
Among the 11-tracks featured, standouts include: Hang Loose (#3), which seems to give a shout out to Alabama Football fans with the lyrics, “Roll with the Tide and I’ma take care of you;” On Your Way (#11), a nice upbeat tune with stunning vocals and music alike; and finally Boys & Girls (#8), a sultry, soulful song with passion packed into every chord and vocal.
Without a doubt, this album showcases the group’s well-rounded nature. It has a killer studio-sound, setting itself apart from the band’s live performances, which isn’t a bad thing.
Hearing the group live is a must, but throw this album on in the comfort of your own home and you will not be disappointed. If anything, you’ll get the itch to jump online and check out The Alabama Shakes on tour this summer.
This article was originally published on Fishbowlrecords.net on April 5, 2012.