You probably remember the first time you heard Alabama Shakes. We know we do, because their bluesy, soulful sound is simply unforgettable. Lead singer Brittany Howard’s vocals steal the show, soaring high one moment, and then diving to dusty depths the next with a guttural intensity that many have compared to that of Janis Joplin. When the band came into music lovers’ purview in 2012 with the album Boys & Girls, Howard’s vocals garnered praise from all corners of the music world. That year, the album’s hit single “Hold On” topped the Billboard adult alternative chart and was called the best song of the year by Rolling Stone (no small feat, since 2012 also gave birth to hits like “I Love It” by Icona Pop, “Gangnam Style” by Psy, and “Ho Hey” by the Lumineers).
This week, we welcomed Alabama Shakes to the Shelburne Museum as part of our Concerts on the Green series. Their heartfelt and soulful performance blew us away, with songs from their debut album as well as 2015’s Sound & Color.
Our crew of scoopers was on location dishing out Ben & Jerry's to happy concertgoers, and highlights of the night for them included the grooving "Hang Loose" and the brooding "Heartbreaker", as well as a few of the hits that they’re most known for, such as the sultry and heavy "Don’t Wanna Fight".
Success Finds the Shakes
It seems that Alabama Shakes never sought out chart-topping success; it just found them. Of course, that’s not unusual when you’re as talented as this foursome. The group started playing together formally shortly after Howard graduated high school in 2009, and didn’t languish in obscurity for long. By 2011 they were fielding record deals left and right, and opening for Drive-By Truckers as they toured around the country. And it didn’t take long for the awards to start pouring in, with eight Grammy nominations since 2013, including three wins (Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song for “Don’t Wanna Fight” and Best Alternative Album for Sound & Color).
Over the years the band has found time to bolster some of their favorite causes, such as St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama. Howard was born with retinoblastoma, a rare type of cancer most commonly found in children. Today, she uses music to give back to the St. Jude’s community, often visiting to jam out with kids battling illness. “I think music has the power to heal,” she says. We wholeheartedly agree.
Photo credit: @Justingural