Brittany Howard has one of those voices that could persuade a person to do anything. It's a voice that countless other Southern soul singers have possessed, infused with faith in a higher power and consequently, faith in humanity. Howard and the three other impossibly young members of Alabama Shakes shouldn't be able to make music as soulful as what's contained on this debut album, but from the opening vamp of "Hold On," the band demonstrate that they have read (in a manner of speaking) Otis Redding's Dictionary of Soul cover to cover. Formed just two years ago in tiny Athens, AB, the quartet have quickly risen, thanks in large part to Howard's undeniable natural talent. Although a classic shouter, nothing about her delivery is forced. The same goes for the feeling she has leading the group. Her dynamics are impeccable on every track, especially "Be Mine" and "I Ain't The Same," which build to glorious revival tent climaxes. Like every great soul singer, Howard has trademark phrases, and the several occasions where she drops a slurred "sweet baby" are heart melting. The rawness of the band puts them in a different category than other soul revivalists like Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, but the visceral quality of Boys & Girls gives Alabama Shakes an edge.
Read an interview with Alabama Shakes here. (ATO/Fontana North)