Boys & Girls counts as the Alabama Shakes debut album. Formed during 2009 in Athens, Alabama, the band includes Brittany Howard (vocals/guitar), Zac Cockrell (bass), Steve Johnson (drums), Heath Fogg (guitar) and Ben Tanner (keyboards). This group retains the classic Muscle Shoals/STAX soul sound. If you see the band live, you'll hear cover songs by Otis Redding, James Brown, Led Zeppelin and AC/DC. The Alabama Shakes even went out on the road with the mighty Drive By Truckers.
Recorded in Nashville, Boys & Girls emits a low-to-the-ground sound where kudzu, collard greens and cornbread remain cultural staples. This collection contains 11 original songs. There are no wasted notes on this release. Boys & Girls begins with the sultry "Hold On" where the voice of Brittany Howard transcends far beyond her young age. "I Found You" sounds like a cross between Wilson Pickett recording with 'The Swampers' and Ann Peebles collaborating with the Hi Rhythm Section.
This is truly a soul album, and "Hang Loose" proves the Alabama Shakes possess a strong command over musical genres. "Rise to the Sun" showcases the strength of this group's ability to create a huge sound with minimal instrumentation. "You Ain't Alone" stands as a timeless classic...a real fall-down-on-your-knees classic when Brittany sings: "One two three/Are you too scared to dance for me?".
On "Goin' To A Party" the band rises above common sounds and songs, which allows them to brand their own individuality and originality. There's not another ensemble that sounds like the Alabama Shakes. The piano ballad "Heartbreaker" sounds just like its title, and the group provides proper backing for Ms. Howard to really allow her golden voice to shine. The title track--"Boys & Girls"-- breaks things down between the yin and the yang...we all know this tune, we just haven't heard it until now. There's a thread of a universal emotion here, which explains this group's wide appeal.
The fatback groove of "Be Mine" really swings, and makes the Shakes sound much older than their years on this timeless tune. "I Ain't The Same" navigates towards the rock & roll side of things without abandoning the group's soulful musical foundation. "On Your Way" ends Boys & Girls with a heart-rending abandon about an eternal goodbye. Boys & Girls emerges as one of the finest releases of the year. You're going to hear a lot more about the Alabama Shakes, I promise.