Sunday Singalong: Alabama Shakes

How much do I love this sensational new band from Athens, Alabama (soon to join Athens, Georgia in indie-rock iconography)? How much do I love their singer, Brittany Howard? Let me count the ways.

I love her swooping, gritty, everything-hanging-out delivery. I love the grunge sensibility wedded to the R&B/Soul.

(I do hate the way lazy writers reach for the standard Janis Joplin comparison for any singer like this. But I love that they are beginning to be called on it.Think of who Janis was channelling in the first place.)

I love it that instead of “Look at this new sensation who sings just like she was black” – much as I love Amy Winehouse and Adele -this time it’s a young black girl who is getting the fame and the accolades.

I love it that she performs comfortably and dynamically in her natural body and her jeans and T shirts, you know, like the men are allowed to do in a band. I love it that she hasn’t fallen into the clutches of A and R men who would pressure her to get thin and wear sequins and six-inch heels and drop the guitar.

Not to diss women who stand up front and wear tight dresses to sing soul and R&B – many of those singers are wonderful. I just love it that Brittany breaks that mould.

I love her swagger with that guitar. I love how she knows how to sling it around and perform with it. (Are you listening, La Roux?)

I read somewhere that the A & R men had come after her to try to win her away for a solo career and that she’d refused to leave the band. I can’t verify that story as I’ve been unable to google it up again, but if it’s true, I love her for it.

Most of all, I love the music. Here, have some more.

Categories: arts & entertainment


9 replies

  1. Oh hooray for someone else’s music taste here. The readers rejoice, I can feel it from here. Anyway, Helen, love your choice and love your post. Thank you.

  2. Nothing at all wrong with your musical taste Bluemilk!

  3. But just who was Ms. Joplin channeling in the first place? Serious question.

    Thank you for making me pay attention to Alabama Shakes, Brittany Howard, and Athens, Alabama. I live in Montgomery and had no clue.

    • tsisageya, Joplin credited African-American blues artists – Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Odetta, Billie Holiday etc – with influencing her to become a singer. She consciously modelled herself on these heroines of hers.

  4. Tsisageya, lucky you being in the US – they’re on tour right now. They are booked up till August in the US and Europe, but no dates for Australia so far! Boooooooo!

  5. Thank you, so much, tigtog. I guess I should have known that but I was never a big Joplin fan; more Joni Mitchell through the years. That’s my defense and I’m sticking to it. Seriously though, thank you.

  6. Helen, yes, not only am I in the United States but, Alabama as well. I had no clue but now I see them everywhere.
    Heck, I foresee them coming to Australia in the not too distant future. After all, who wouldn’t?

  7. This is for you, tsisageya:
    Another woman who haz a guitar and isn’t afraid to use it. There’s a story about some dude watching some other very famous dude watching her play guitar backstage (can’t find the details of who and where just now) and assumed very famous dude was checking her out, but he was actually watching for her de-tuning and fingering.

  8. Beautiful, Helen! I hadn’t heard that story.

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