CD review: Alabama Shakes 'Boys & Girls'

Published: April 27, 2012
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ROCK

Alabama Shakes ‘Boys & Girls' (ATO)

Alabama Shakes singer Brittany Howard sounds like a conduit through which the history of Southern rock and soul can pour, and a deep sense of the region's musical legacy, from Stax/Volt to the present, courses through Alabama Shakes' full-length debut, “Boys & Girls.” Howard never sounds like she's actively imitating any of the greats, but throughout this brief and bracing collection of fuzzed-out R&B, she sounds like the connective tissue between the great soul shouters.

It certainly helps that Howard is backed up by tight musicianship: guitarist Heath Fogg seems to have studied every note Steve Cropper played, and the rhythm section of Zac Cockrell and Steve Johnson prove on the Otis Redding-style raver “You Ain't Alone” that they could hold their own with the legends. Like Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings or Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, Alabama Shakes sound like their music comes more from passion than study: the analog amplifier buzz that wafts through “Boys & Girls” makes it seem like they banged it out while they loved it and never worried about perfecting it.

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