Mark Jan. 19, 2012 on your calendar: You will want to be in the crowd when the Alabama Shakes play One Eyed Jacks.
The Alabama Shakes’ path to instant notoriety in recent weeks represents the good, old-fashioned story of a Southern band coming seemingly out of nowhere to captivate the nation with their organic, inspired sound. After registering a Richter Scale buzz through word of mouth following the quiet release of an unknown 4-song EP and a string of reportedly earth-moving shows at New York’s CMJ Music Marathon last month, the Shakes’ have immediately established a name for themselves. It’s hard to say what the band expected when they released their 4-song EP on their bandcamp site, but high praise from just about every media outlet covering new music, a quick signing to Red Light Management and almost overnight name recognition probably weren’t quite on the radar.
The Shakes (as they were previously known) are led by singer/songwriter Brittany Howard, a bespectacled vocalist who performs with a rare-found connectivity to the legendary soul singers of the 1960s and 70s. Comparisons to Janis Joplin and Otis Redding are immediately being thrown around to establish context with the unitiated, as Howard balances a fiery, empassioned howl with a high, lonesome warmth that so few singers, male or female, have the respiratory wherewithal to pull off. Like Amy Winehouse (hopefully without the requisite, tragic baggage), each verse takes the listener through an emotional roller coaster, tempered dramatically by a moderately staggered tempo and well-timed pauses, and, like most talents of the era, are followed by explosive gospel soul outbursts with enough voltage to will blow the roof off of any poorly-built music venue. Also, did I mention that the backing band sounds like a pack of session players from Muscle Shoals? One day you will brag about having seen Alabama Shakes in a venue so small as One Eyed Jacks. That conversation years from now will probably start with the words: ‘Back in the Day’, and rightfully so. Stay tuned to the One Eyed Jacks web site as more information about the January 19th show should be posted very soon.Alabama Shakes – You Ain’t Alone (Live)
Wesley Hodges writes about music for NolaVie and Live Music Blog: NOLA.