Shakin’ All Over: Why I Love The Alabama Shakes

Resistance was truly futile.

Last year, I started reading about the Alabama Shakes and, at first glance, assumed they were some hipster, pre-fab band that didn’t seem worth five minutes of my time.

Not that there’s anything wrong with hipster, pre-fab bands. I have a ton of them in my CD collection, after all.

Gradually, however, as I read more and more about this remarkable band, I figured it was time to put all the hype aside and actually listen to the music they were creating. Once that happened, it took about twelve seconds to realize I’d been missing one of the most honest, joyous, captivating bands making music today.

It’s hard to believe lead singer Brittany Howard and bassist Zac Cockrell started playing together just a few years ago at high school in Athens, Alabama, as they truly seem like old souls, playing 60’s style Southern rock-blues-garage music like they’ve been honing their skills in divey bars for the past five decades.

With Howard as their Janis Joplin-ish centerpiece, Cockrell, Heath Fogg (guitar) and Steve Johnson (drums) have built a band that’s both incredibly tight and utterly soulful. When Howard breaks into one of her signature wails, it’s enough to rip your heart out. In today’s super-processed, auto-tuned-to-death world of music, these cats jump out like party crashers at an undertaker’s convention.

Possibly the most refreshing thing about the Shakes is their genuine surprise about the success that’s currently threatening to overwhelm them. From everything I’ve seen or read, they haven’t courted their critical acclaim or growing popularity, it’s just grown organically through word of mouth, simply because they make great music that’s down-to-earth and refreshingly emotional.

Of course, what would the world be without naysayers?

There are some critics who say they’re simply ripping off older bands and styles, that they’ve got nothing original to say, and aren’t doing what they do any better than their predecessors.

Who cares?

I listen to a lot of music and it’s virtually impossible to find anything that doesn’t have its roots somewhere in the past. That’s not something new – it’s been happening since the birth of music. And the Alabama Shakes shouldn’t have to apologize for respecting the traditions of the bands they grew up with and idolized.

In fact, we should be thanking them for reminding us why we love music so much, because it moves us and nurtures us and gets us through hard times and weaves itself into our souls.

It’s about time that someone shook up the music industry and helped us reconnect emotionally. And the Alabama Shakes are shaking things up just fine.

What music is shaking up your world at the moment? Let me know – because we can all use another good shake-up from time-to-time.