A lot can get lost in translation. It happens more often than we realize. For example, a book made into movie, emotions/thoughts put into words on paper and sometimes a band’s live presence when they cut a studio album – it just doesn’t seem the same, like something’s missing.
The Alabama Shakes are one of the hottest acts in music right now, and after their performance on the Conan O’Brien Late Show, the world received a taste of the raw, ‘Bama soul that sounds oh-so-sweet live, the same sound my friend John Thompson, co-owner of Callaghan’s Irish Social Club (Mobile, Ala.), had described about their performance at his venue last November.
On April 10, the Shakes are scheduled to release their debut album “Girls & Boys” (available now for pre-order). Not only is this a major milestone for the group, but also the time where audiences will find out if the group can bottle that same live sound and somehow transform it into a unique in the studio, not losing something important in translation.
From the first lick of the opening track, Hold On, the Alabama Shakes deliver something unexpectedly brilliant. The recording of this album captured the powerful, unprocessed sound this group is known for producing live, helping set the tone for this Southern Rock/Soul masterpiece.
The consistency of Brittany Howard’s vocals throughout the album is terrific. Howard really puts her pipes on display, showing her dynamic range in the notes/tones she hits, some of which are reminiscent to Soul singers of the past such as Bettye LaVette, Aretha Franklin and Etta James.
One of the more powerful tracks, which displays Howard’s fiery vocal range, is I Ain’t the Same (#10). Not only are the vocals terrific in this song, and throughout the album, but the content is as well. Each song possesses a variety of emotions, every one precisely contrasting to others.
While the vocals and content play a critical role in the albums worth, neither would be nearly as poignant if it weren’t for the music surrounding them.
Heath Fogg (guitarist), Howard (vocals/guitar), Zac Cockrell (bassist) and Steve Johnson (drummer) do a fantastic job of creating an uncommon track-list of tunes, covering a wide spectrum of genres from Blues to Country and Rock to Soul, all the while making each one truly something of their own.
Among the 11-tracks featured, standouts include Hang Loose (#3), which seems to give a shout out to Alabama Football fans with the lyrics, “Hang loose, hang loose. Roll with the Tide and I’ma take care of you;” On Your Way (#11), a nice upbeat tune with stunning vocals and music alike and finally Boys & Girls (#8), a sultry, soulful song with passion backed into every chord and vocal.
Without a doubt, The Shakes’ debut album proves the group is a well-rounded machine; banging out a killer studio-sound, while never making listeners think twice about them losing something from the live-show realm.
Not only is this a group everyone needs to hear in the comfort of their own home/car/headphones, but still a must-hear group live as well. Be sure to check out The Alabama Shakes on tour this summer.