Alabama Shakes’ debut album is filled with everything that is good about rock music, especially blues infused rock music, as is their style. Pulsating drum beats, memorable guitar hooks and distinctive vocals gel brilliantly and create an effortlessly fluid album.
Album opener Hold On sounds like a Kings of Leon outtake from when they used to be good (Aha Shake Heartbreak/Youth and Young Manhood) and burns itself into your memory as one of those songs you feel like you’ve known your entire life.
Once we approach track two, the pleading I Found You, the band takes on more of its own identity. With lead singer Brittany Howard behind the mike, the group’s sound takes on a more unique, vintage style which harks back a lot to Skyline era Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin and at times there are even similarities to Amy Winehouse. Comparisons to Joplin were always going to be unavoidable for Howard but fail to do her justice. The eclecticism of their musical tastes is also reflected in Howard’s voice which wanders from rock songstress to lounge room balladeer (Rise To The Sun) to troubadour folk singer. Howard has a diversity that complements the band so well and it is one that is missed in such overly simple comparisons.
There are weaker tracks on the album that expose the album for the debut it is. Yet, these tracks do not interrupt the overall feel of the album and in this reviewer’s opinion only serve to showcase the superfluous nature of the rest of the album.
This is a debut album: There is definitely room for improvement, however, as an introduction to a band, this is a particularly strong album and one which bodes well for Alabama Shakes in their near future.