Every so often I stagger upon a piece of music by a band or artist that I’ve never heard of that simply blows my mind. It takes away all my stalwart self-importance and baroque semantics (nearly), strips away my sureness and leaves me a trembling bulk of reverential madness. The last time that happened, the suspect was one Gary Clark Jr. I’m still trying to track down that license plate.
This time, I’d like to introduce you to Alabama Shakes.
Based out of Athens, Alabama, this outfit is led by the everywoman presence of Brittany Howard. She is a soul singer with a set of lungs that will blow you away. There’s humility to her presentation, but the chunks of Joplin and Hendrix and pure fucking soul that she sinks into every note is out of this world.
There’s also Heath Fogg, Zac Cockrell and Steve Johnson to round out the band.
The band has an EP that you can locate online and download for a mere four dollars. There are videos to check out, too, and I was pressed to taper it down to just one for the purposes of this feature.
A year ago, the band didn’t even have a publicist. They called themselves The Shakes until they realized that name had been taken. Now, they are set to play London’s Boston Arms (and I’ll be selling my imaginary firstborn to see them in Vancouver in January of 2012) and the first date is sold fucking out.
All the same, I’ve selected “You Ain’t Alone.” The video is six scorching minutes long and was filmed in Chattanooga in September of 2011.
With 2012 arriving in short order, we’ll doubtlessly be forced an array of music lacking in soul and power and passion. There will be, as there will always be, artists who don’t mean it and singers who go through the motions because it looks good in a video.
And then there will be Alabama Shakes, representative of the idea that you really can just get up and play your ass off without worrying about what you look like or what you’re wearing. The good news is that soul, passion and fire also looks pretty damn good in a video.
Put these cats on your 2012 obsession lists, kiddies.