With as long as rock and the blues have been around, you’d think the creative output would stop at some point. Yet here we have Alabama Shakes, a band who’s helping to reinvigorate the blues. The band is comprised of vocalist Brittany Howard, bassist Zac Cockrell, drummer Steve Johnson and guitarist Heath Fogg and Boys & Girls is their debut album.
The album opener “Hold On” is a slow cooker, but it’s a warm welcome that starts the debut right. “I Found You” is a love song about finding someone who will treat you right. “Cause I’ve traveled a long way / And it took a long time / To find you / But I finally found you,” Howard sings over dreamy, jangly guitar strums and a steady rhythm section.
“Hang Loose” kicks off with a hypnotic guitar line and the clinking keys of a piano. The song really gets moving when the drums and bass join in. “Hang Loose / Let the ocean worry about being blue / Hang Loose / Go with the tide and I’m gonna take care of you,” Howard sings. Even though summer is still a few months away, you can expect to hear this blasting from speakers on the beach. The album starts to slow down by the time “You Ain’t Alone” comes along. The instrumental section summons up epic highs and lows, while Howard croons about loneliness and fear, with lines like “1-2-3 / Are you too scared to dance for me? / Bite the bullet or tug my sleeve? / Or are you scared out on your own two feet?”
“Goin’ To The Party” is the shortest song on the album. Like the title implies, it’s about going to a party. It’s easygoing and one of the calmest tracks on the album. “Heartbreaker” is where the album starts to pick up again. The track starts out with a nice piano line, which doesn’t last long. Soon, a thundering drum roll drops in and then the song shoots off like a ballistic missile. The title track is slow and dreamlike, which acts as a nice interlude for “Be Mine.” I see “Be Mine” as the centerpiece of Boys & Girls; it’s energizing, emotional and most importantly relatable. Guitar, piano, bass, drums and vocals all meld together to produce something beautiful.
Although the quartet works well together, it’s Howard who takes center stage on this debut. Her shouts and wails stand above the instrumentals. Her words sound heartfelt and her phrases flow smoothly. Her range varies from subtle lows to screaming highs, but no matter what key she’s in, she’s killing it.
Boys & Girls is a short album that clocks in at 35-minutes over the course of 11 songs. But by the time it’s done, you’ll want to start it over again. Alabama Shakes have gathered much attention over the past few months, and even though this is the band’s debut album, we can expect them to stick around.