DNA: Bon Scott vocals and lyrics like Tori Amos and Roger Waters
You’re not going to casually listen to Alabama Shakes, no sir. You’re going to be taken on a wild ride of emotion and be left sweating at the end of this album. Sound & Color is raw emotion bottled for your consumption.
Critics point to Janis Joplin as an easy comparison to Brittany Howard’s vocals. That comparison is insufficient. Howard lists AC/DC’s Bon Scott and David Bowie as her influences, and that gives you a more accurate description. Her vocals and lyrics are the big draw for this band; however, the other musicians are stellar without stepping on Howard’s ever-changing vocal approaches to the songs.
The album’s first song, “Sound and Color“, is a nice introduction to the musical mayhem awaiting the listener. It blends bluesy vocals with almost a lounge-sound backdrop. Alabama Shakes doesn’t waste any time thereafter, throwing you right into “Don’t Wanna Fight.” Listening to the song evokes the times when you overheard your parents fighting in the house. The hardest hitting song on this album is “Gimme All Your Love“; the vocals leave you speechless.
The lyrics are honest, brutally honest. “Over My Head” is one example of Howard’s confessions. The song structures differ throughout the album, as well. These aren’t formulaic blues or rock songs. “The Greatest” is a driving and hard-hitting song. “Shoegaze” borrows from The Rolling Stones (Sticky Fingers era) and T. Rex.
I recommend that you listen to both Alabama Shakes’ albums: “Boys & Girls” and “Sound & Color.” They are both solid albums. I also recommend that you read the band’s story and rise to fame; it’s a great story (here and here). Also, take a look at Brittany holding her own with Paul McCartney (here).
On a scale of Mel Sharples (“Forget It”) to Jean “Flo” Castleberry (“Get), both “Sound & Color” is a Flo 10.