Album Reviews

Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color

Artist:     Alabama Shakes

Album:     Sound & Color

Label:     ATO Records

Release Date:     04/21/2015

86

Forget any notion of a sophomore jinx, and dismiss the perception of Alabama Shakes as a one woman band. It’s not just about powerhouse vocalist Brittany Howard alone anymore. It’s as if the band was ardently determined to be different, to be strong, to be enervated, to be both old school and new school simultaneously and mostly to be unpredictable. You would think they’ve used this time since their immensely successful debut, Boys & Girls, to listen to all forms of rock, R&B, and soul recorded since the sixties and then sprinkle all of those forms into a sound that is fresh, modern, and yet capable of reminding us of folks like Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Jim Hendrix, and even Miles Davis. It results in kind of a mess but one that is captivating enough to make you come back for repeated listens. After all, it’s not easy to digest thrashing rock, grunge, punk electronica, fusion jazz, and vintage R&B and soul in one listen. Sometimes, The Alabama Shakes will inject as many as four of these styles into one track. Even Brittany Howard, when asked what the band sounds like now, replied, “I have no idea.”

While there is no track here that is quite as compelling or enduring as “Hold On” from their debut, the punch of the single, “Don’t Wanna Fight” will get plenty of attention. “The Greatest” has sounds that extend from pounding rock to a Lou Reed type groove to fifties rock n’ roll to small doses of electronica and then back to Lou Reed. On the other hand, “Miss You” is vintage soul with some strings and xylophones thrown in just to change it up a little. On “Future People,” it seems like Howard will go in a classic soul direction but goes falsetto instead. Yet, “Gimme All Your Love” has a vintage R&B feel. There’s just enough of that roots soul to tie this record to its predecessor but, for the most part, Sound and Color reflects a maturity and sophisticated sense of exploration from a band that just a few years ago was playing cover tunes in grimy Alabama bars before The Drive-by Truckers gave them a big break by making them the opening act on several tours. Now, The Drive-by Truckers are opening for them as they tour this record. The Alabama Shakes have staked their claim. They will be fixtures on the radio all summer long.

– Jim Hynes

Got something to say?