Blues-rock band Alabama Shakes have certainly come out swinging with their debut album Boys & Girls. Since forming in 2009, the quartet have catapulted into the spotlight to become, arguably, the darlings of the contemporary Americana scene. So much so, they recently finished touring with roots royalty Jack White for his personally orchestrated Spring Tour.
It's no mystery why the Alabama Shakes have shot to such popularity, Boys & Girls is punctuated with goose skin tracks, kicking off with soul searching opener 'Hold On'. This hair-raising sound is in large part owing to the gravelly Joplin-esque howling from full-figured front woman Brittany Howard. Rocking a 60s nerd girl aesthetic, Howard asserts honesty with cathartic vigor into her vocals, many of which are based around love and identity. Complementing the Shakes' sound is a religious undertone running through the 11 tracks, hardly surprising given the group's Deep South upbringing.
Recorded at The Bomb Shelter studio, in the neighbouring state of Tenneesee, the album makes ample use of some of the organs housed at the Shelter. To hazard a guess it was the studioís vintage Thomas All Tube organ used to add extra depth and texture to tracks like 'Heartbreaker', which incidentally has a Winehouse influenced flavour.
With such a solid album it gets hard to pick favourites, but 'Goin' To The Party' keeps rolling back onto repeat. The slower paced, finger snapping track about drinking and fighting makes a nice addition to the midsection of the album. Despite the albumís overall dynamism there are some tracks on Boys & Girls that donít exactly fall flat, though more easily become background music. But itís understandably hard to create a long-player fully consisting of totally righteous tracks unless,as a friend pointed out, you are the Ramones.
With itís stark white album art, the Boys & Girls cover is weirdly incongruous with the Alabama Shakes nostalgically influenced sound of layered guitars, lines of fuzz, crashing symbols and tight snares. However, itís an album that would fit nicely into any vinyl collection, right between Sharon Jones and The Rolling Stones records.