Alabama Shakes are quite possibly one of the best new bands around. While successfully touring across the Atlantic with high demand and a comfortable record deal under their belts with infamous British indie label Rough Trade, they remain modest and true to their roots. Their sound consists of soulful, progressive blues with their very own modern twist. After their debut album achieved such critical acclaim, any well respected artist would hesitate trying to top such a masterpiece, however they delivered.
Opening up with the title track ‘Sound & Color’, Brittany Howard’s smooth voice glides over the soulful drums, easing you into the rest of the album. Next up is ‘Don’t Wanna Fight’, with Heath Fogg and Howard slowly tearing up the track with guitar tones that seemed to have dripped out of heaven. The rhythm section consisting of Zac Cockrell (Bass) and Steve Johnson (Drums) keep it tight throughout the rest of the album with Steve particularly providing serious power to back up Howard’s aggressive lines “I don’t know who’s fuck to give” on the track ‘Dunes’. The band do a great job of writing an aggressive piece without falling into the now clichéd trap of playing horrendously fast power chords and screaming down the mic; instead they take this anger and channel it in a soulful way that just seems to make them stand apart from the next generation of bands touring the world today.
The physical album itself is something to marvel at, on 12” clear vinyl with engravings on one side of the two discs, everything about them just screams ‘smooth’. As the album presses on it is clear that they have made a clear step in an alternative direction in order to avoid recycling old tricks from 2012’s Boys & Girls. On the B side ‘This Feeling’ breaks down the album, demonstrating some versatility as the acoustic guitar comes out with some subtle percussion floating in the background. Howard as always sings with passion, with lyrics such as “I just kept dreaming” leaving you in a pleasant reflective mood, causing you to think about where you are in life and what the future holds.
Turning onto the C side, ‘Miss You’ slowly erupts into a new genre of syrupy soulful Blues goodness, addictive in an unconventional sense, as you find yourself breaking into the chorus walking down the road simply pondering life without noticing. ‘Gemini’ marks – as a guitarist – my personal highlight of the album, credit to the sinister guitar line that creeps into your ears. Howard’s voice reaches an area that I’m not even sure she was aware of, ranging from as low as Cockrell’s thundering bass to the very peak of Fogg’s face melting fuzz.
Overall the album is a fantastic piece of work that stands alone from any other band. Too often bands simply replicate a legendary sound from the past, yet Alabama Shakes are original and while mixing up their sound, they remain true to who they are and where they come from.
Words by Elliott Godden