I know next to nothing about Alabama Shakes, but even I know that Hold On from their last album was one of the best throwback, stripped back, soulful rock songs for many a year. I liked Hold On as much as anyone else who heard it, but never made the effort to listen to any more of what Alabama Shakes had to offer. Then, they started touring with Drive-By Truckers. And Truckers co-founder Patterson Hood hasn’t been able to stop tweeting about how great they are. And since Bored and Dangerous is seemingly slowly becoming a Drive-By Truckers blog, dedicated to taking note of anytime any current or ex-member does or says anything, I guess I’m obliged to listen to Alabama Shakes’ 2015 effort, Sound & Color.
Front woman Brittany Howard gets a lot of the attention when it comes to this band. Watch any Youtube clip if these guys in full flight, and that attention is understandable. She’s a great guitarist, a phenomenal singer and has more stage presence and natural charisma than is fathomable. And on the opening triumvirate of Sound & Color, Don’t Wanna Fight and Dunes, all of those live strengths translate to the studio environment as well.
The studio polish also makes me realise that the rest of the band is a little undeservedly overlooked. Zac Cockrell (bass), Heath Fogg (guitar) and Steve Johnson (drums) are all amazing musicians in their own right. They also look way too fresh faced and white to be delivering this music that seems to flow inexplicably effortlessly. Songs like Future People and Gimme All Your Love have so much soul to it, it’s hard to imagine a band this young wrote them.
After getting slow and tender on This Feeling and Guess Who, it’s time to turn up the volume and the tempo with some vintage punk, with hints of The Stokes, on The Greatest. Then there’s Miss You, a kind of perfect encapsulation of this band in one song. The quiet and restrained verses can only stay quiet and restrained for so long before the give way to the wailing rock that’s always there in Sound & Color, waiting to break through and let loose.