Alabama Shakes, First Aid Kit, Dry the River, Filligar 18+ Early Warnings (Music) Member Picks Recommended Sold Out (Music) Soundboard

When: Wed., Aug. 1, 7 p.m. 2012

I didn't expect the music of Alabama Shakes to be any match for my skepticism about it—I'm always cynical about young rock musicians trying to play soul, and this suddenly famous bar band from a tiny Alabama town was supposedly putting a rock spin on the famous Muscle Shoals sound. But their debut album, Boys & Girls (ATO), quickly shut down my resistance. The record isn't perfect by any means, but it jumps out of the gate with such force, confidence, and warmth that I couldn't resist. Brittany Howard is a charismatic singer, with a feisty style closer to Janis Joplin's fireworks than Bettye LaVette's smoldering depth, and she transforms the band's familiar licks and chord progressions (all the songs are originals, but they don't tend to sound like it) with raw conviction and an intimate command of each melody that lets her load it with ad hoc twists. Her no-holds-barred approach—full of growls, whoops, slurs, cries, and a sort of post-Billie Holiday vibrato—feels like overkill on some of the lesser material, but it helps her make the best songs, such as "I Found You," "Hang Loose," and "You Ain't Alone," sound like instant classics. The scrappy band cranks up its southern-soul rudiments to sweaty rock-club intensity while maintaining an appealing swing, getting the job done with little fuss—as it should, since Howard is unquestionably the draw here. So far she's maintained her composure and focus despite the band's out-of-nowhere success; here's hoping she keeps trusting her gut. —Peter Margasak First Aid Kit, Dry the River, and Filligar open. 18+

Price: $26

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