So far our blues-rock featured artists have been incredibly talented solo male acts. We’re going to take a different take to today’s piece. Lead by Brittany Howard, the Alabama Shakes are one of today’s best rock bands. Along with Zac Cockrell on bass, Heath Fogg on guitar, and Steve Johnson on drums, the Alabama Shakes have an album rumored to be out early next year. If you don’t know them yet, it’s about time you became acquainted.
In 2009 Brittany and Zac were attending East Limestone High School in Athens, Alabama. Brittany approached Zac and asked if he wanted to make some music together. The two started to meet up after school to write music and develop a sound. They were writing blues-rock alongside some progressive rock and brushing up on some David Bowie tunes as well. Soon after the two starting jamming, Brittany approached Steve Johnson, a guy she knew who played the drums. He started to work with the duo, and they soon became a trio. He helped expand their style as well, bringing an edgier, punk-metal influence to the group.
Soon they had a recording session just down the road in Decatur, Alabama. Heath Fogg, who was currently in a different band, heard their demos and immediately asked the trio (now known as The Shakes) to open for an upcoming show of his. The Shakes opened the show with Fogg playing along with them. The performance gained an immediate positive response.
Due to their success together on stage together, Fogg joined The Shakes, and it was off to the races. In 2011 they traveled north to record some songs in a Nashville studio. The Shakes played a few small shows, and people started to notice their incredible and energetic stage presence. Word was starting to spread about this new, lively, blues-rock group.
Before releasing their debut EP, the group changed their name to the Alabama Shakes to differentiate themselves from a band that already existed. The self-titled EP was received with positive reviews yet again, including coverage from NPR and an invitation to the CMJ Music Festival in New York City. Their performance at CMJ was once again energetic and engaging, and they were signed to Rough Trade Records and ATO Records just a month later.
In April of 2012, they released their debut full-length album “Boys and Girls”. Tracks like “Hold On”, “You Ain’t Alone”, and “Heavy Chevy” had music fans going crazy for the Alabama Shakes. They also went on to play at Bonnaroo and other music festivals throughout the summer. This new blues-rock and roll band had filled a void in the musical hearts of many. They use their signature sound and incredible energy to connect with the entire crowd at any show they play. Their performance of “You Ain’t Alone” has to be one of my favorite moments in my concert-going career (make sure you watch this video of it, trust me).
Howard’s soulful voice combined with the fantastic melodies and energy from the rest of the group creates something you have to witness. Hopefully their sophomore album gets an official release date shortly and that the new music means more festivals for these guys this summer. The Alabama Shakes are a blues-rock band you don’t want to miss out on.
By Ben Lowden