Artwork by XZIRTAEBX
Alabama Shakes was formed in 2009 in Athens, Alabama — by a postal worker, a nuclear plant night watchmen, an animal clinic worker and a house painter — as a viable alternative to watching the cars rust, which was the prevailing pastime in Athens at the time. Having weathered a dues-paying, teeth-cutting cover band purgatory of sports bars and country dives and all the mightier for it, the Shakes began building buzz when the breathless blogger hype proved not just believable but vastly understated. On 2012’s million-selling Boys And Girls, Alabama Shakes sounded like Exiles On Main Street with Aretha Franklin on lead vocals and Jagger on coke and tambourine. Or Lynyrd Skynyrd’s plane crashing into the Big Brother and the Holding Company’s tour bus.
The sepia-toned Americana, tar-black blooze ecstasies and Muscle Shoals-inflected soul salvations of Boys And Girls blew huge smoking holes in the notion that you simply cannot make it in this business dressed in neckbeards and cat lady glasses no matter how possessed you play or how transcendental the sound you make. The follow up, 2015’s Sound & Color sounds like Nina Simone covering Bowie’s Station To Station (note the deep space setting of the video for the title track), wedding muddy water rock n’ roll to the pneumatic wheeze of analog electronica. No longer just The Mouth That Roared, singer Brittany Howard mixed it up, too, alternately purring like a cat on a hot tin roof and shredding apocalyptic like Mary Clayton at the 3:06 mark of “Gimme Shelter.” It was, hands down, the best album released that year or next and fittingly it went to number one and took home three Grammys.
And then they went dark.
At the beginning of the summer, it was announced that, after multiple aborted attempts to write and record a proper follow-up to Sound & Color, Brittany Howard was striking out on her own, leaving a question mark hanging ominously over the future of the Alabama Shakes. A few days ago, she dropped Jaime, a mesmerizing goats head soup of 21st century psychedelia, blunt-stoked R&B, gospel rapture, moonlit lullaby and greasy funk that dances with the devil and gets right with God, somehow all at once. Named in tribute to her beloved sister who passed away at the tender age of 13, Jaime is a deeply personal statement, a shape-shifting series of prismatic sonic vignettes that rips the band-aid off the psychic lacerations of race, region, religion and sexual personae. After just one listen it becomes immediately apparent why she had to walk down this road alone — and the world is a better place for it.
We have a pair of tickets to see Brittany Howard at the Fillmore on Friday September 27th to give away to some lucky Phawker reader. To qualify to win, you must be signed up to our mailing list (see right, below the masthead). Trust us, this is something you want to do. In addition to breaking news alerts and Phawker updates, you also get advanced warning about groovy concert ticket giveaways and other free swag opportunities like this one! Send us an email at Phawker66@gmail.com confirming you are now on our mailing list, along with the answer to the following Alabama Shakes trivia question: in addition to the Shakes, Brittany Howard has performed and recorded with two side hustle bands, one is called Clear Plastic Masks. What is the name of the other one? Put the words GOATS HEAD SOUP in the subject line and pls include your full name as it appears on your photo ID and a mobile number for confirmation. Good luck and godspeed!
BRITTANY HOWARD @ THE FILLMORE PHILADELPHIA FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 27TH