I bought Alabama Shakes’ Boys & Girls at Zia Records in Tempe, Ariz., in May 2012, and it didn’t leave my car’s CD player for months. Even passing fans know their story: the members met in high school in (surprise) Alabama, wrote some songs, went to Nashville, cut some tracks… then became the darlings of the music industry.
Steeped in the Southern music sound known as Muscle Shoals Sound (think Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin and the Staples Singers) less than an hour from their hometown of Athens, Ala., they have drawn comparisons to the Black Keys and Drive-By Truckers. But for me, lead singer Brittany Howard is the driving force of the band and takes the sound further back.
Howard reminds me of many old blues singers, namely Big Mama Thorton, the powerful-voiced singer who recorded “Hound Dog” four years before a certain 21-year-old made it an international hit.
That is not to slight the other members of the band; rhythm section Zac Cockrell and Steve Johnson, and guitarist Heath Fogg, who lay down tight grooves and searing guitar work behind Howard.
Alabama Shakes play the festival Oct. 26. Look for me right down front. - ARNOLD M. KNIGHTLY