Music Interviews

Alabama Shakes: Full Of 'Southern Soul'

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The Alabama Shakes' debut album is titled Boys & Girls. i

The Alabama Shakes' debut album is titled Boys & Girls. Autumn de Wilde hide caption

toggle caption Autumn de Wilde
The Alabama Shakes' debut album is titled Boys & Girls.

The Alabama Shakes' debut album is titled Boys & Girls.

Autumn de Wilde

Alabama Shakes' members were playing sports bars and country dives when their music first got noticed. Then, last summer, their song "You Ain't Alone" turned up on a popular music blog, and it wasn't long before rock critics and record companies swarmed. With the release of Alabama Shakes' debut album, Boys & Girls, singer Brittany Howard and drummer Steve Johnson could finally bail on their day jobs as a postal worker and nuclear power-plant worker, respectively.

"I feel thankful for the fact that I don't have to ... detect radiation," Johnson says. "Yes, I worked at a nuclear power plant, but that's behind me now."

The band hails from the small town of Athens, Ala. Johnson says they had to win over those rowdy bar crowds with cover songs in nearly every genre you can think of.

"It was kind of unique that we could all find a common ground together, given that we all had different tastes in music. There was a lot of similarities, but differences, as well," Johnson says. "So there was a lot of compromise when it came to songwriting or choosing covers. That's how you get, you know, the variety from Black Sabbath to Sam & Dave."

Alabama Shakes' music exudes a 1960s soul vibe — which, when coupled with Howard's vocals, has gotten the band compared to some heavy-hitting musicians, including Janis Joplin, Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin.

"You know, some comparisons are really flattering. At the same time, it's just the way I sound — and this is the only way I know how to sound, really," Howard says. "I think, mainly, my voice is just something that formed over the years, and I can't sing very quietly. If anything, if I could compare my voice with someone, not necessarily the way it sounds but the way it feels to sing, it'd be like Bon Scott from AC/DC."



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