The Alabama Shakes have been getting lots of love lately from various sources and their full length debut Boys & Girls seeks to capitalize on that. By presenting roots rock, blues and soul within a hip blanket, the band keeps their foundations simple while offering up flashes of indulgences; however the compositions never run much over four minutes with any of the tracks on this full length debut, unlike their throw down live sets.
The opener “Hold On” sets the groovy tone early on with easy progression and breaks before catching you off guard as a distortion ending takes over, another one of those pops up later on, fuzzing things up during the raw blast of “Rise To The Sun”. Guitarist Heath Fogg, bassist Zac Cockrell, and drummer Steve Johnson provide the backing sounds fluidly throughout, but lead singer Brittany Howard is the major focal point with her gutsy raw vocals.
Tracks like the stripped down “You Ain’t Alone” allow Howard to branch out more in the classic blues/soul vocal style with success, while “Heartbreaker” takes on a completely different Broadway vibe with soaring organ swells, showing off Alabama Shake’s range. “I Ain’t The Same” is a showpiece in the style of big seventies soul bands and could be at home on an Al Green disk with its aching vocals and cinematic climax.
The emotional rock and roll comes back to close things as “Be Mine” and “On Your Way” both burn in the vein of a textured, rich Southern style. Boys & Girls is a song focused effort from Alabama Shakes, showing off their talent as writers excellently; those searching for blissful blues/soul/rock in 2012 need look no further.