Flipping past The Late Show With David Letterman one night, I was astonished and astounded to see/hear what seemed to be a howling classic blues diva fronting a wild and rowdy Southern rock band. It was the incomparable Brittany Howard and her band Alabama Shakes performing “Hold On,” the awesome, wailing blues-rock opener from their debut album, Boys & Girls.
The fuzzy studio recording doesn’t quite capture Brittany’s rafter-scraping, earth-quaking bellow on “Hold On,” but is otherwise just as good as the live version.
I really hate to say anything negative about the album, because the band itself is undeniably, brilliantly talented. Sadly, though, the muffled production continues to plague the rest of the album. Even the uptempo numbers are prevented from achieving the full potential of their bombast, and the problem seems to be the sound quality of the recording rather than the arrangements or the band’s instrumentation.
As proven by their live performance on Letterman, Alabama Shakes are definitely capable of churning rumbling rock with funky soul and Delta blues in a sort of Heartless Bastards meets Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears concoction. So hopefully they’ll considering making their sophomore release a live album to show what they’re really made of.
That being said, Boys & Girls is still a solid album and the good songs are truly good – particularly “Hold On,” “Rise to the Sun, “You Ain’t Alone” and “Heartbreaker.”
Alabama Shakes is sure to be a fireworks display of sound live, so check out their tour dates.