Alabama Shakes: Rock Some Soul

If you want to get to know Alabama Shakes on the quick, just cue up Boys & Girls and wait 20 seconds—it's all there: the unhurried back beat, the lazy, Creedence-inspired rhythm guitar and Brittany Howard's fractured plea, "Bless my heart, bless my soul." The blessing is a given considering the three minutes that follow: it might be the most perfect rock song of the year.

The Athens, Alabama-born Shakes have emerged into the spotlight with head-spinning momentum, graduating from dive bars and local weeklies to sold-out international shows, a big-time record deal and fiery performances on late night television (Letterman was flabbergasted.) The hubbub comes back to Howard's boot-stomping vocal tear, which has enough dynamite to exhume the ancient ghosts of early rock 'n' roll.

But even without the Cinderella story hoopla, there's plenty of thrills on Boys & Girls. Try the strutting verse and explosive chorus of "Rise to the Sun," the sleazy groove of "Goin' to the Party," or the soulful, Stones-y stomp of "Hold On." So what if they occasionally indulge in a rock 'n' roll clichĂ©? They've earned it. With all their youthful ferocity, the Alabama Shakes' promise is blinding. – Nate Cavalieri, Google Play

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