A friend of mine recently got me turned onto the band, Alabama Shakes, a roots band based out of Athens, Alabama. I loved their songs. Loved the lead singer's (Brittany Howard) voice and guitar playing and, of course, HATE that Jon Pareles from the New York times mentioned Howard and Janis Joplin in the same sentence. Ok, why do people see a female lead singer doing rock and immediately compare her to Janis Joplin? Janis Joplin was terrible. Brittany Howard can sing.
Another thing. I love the fact that a band comes out and actually plays good roots music, doesn't have a style consultant and isn't using auto-tune features on their vocals. I love the fact that the Alabama Shakes have a pretty good grasp of great American music that's come before them (and I know it's hard to believe, but music did happen before them). They keep it simple. About the groove and voice. What makes me scratch my head sometimes is that folks hear bands like A-shakes and immediately freak out and wonder where the Shakes have been their whole life. People see that the A-shakes come out wearing rock clothes and a female lead who plays guitar and think that they've discovered this new-found music and can't wait to tell everybody. Believe me, I was just as excited to check YouTube as soon as I heard about them and when I did it was another breath of fresh air for me. Almost as if I was in a sealed room where the last of the sweet music air that I had been breathing was almost gone and then someone cracked a window and the Alabama Shakes came in to keep me going a little longer.
This post is a suggestion to people to dig back a little and not let some of the earlier artists get swept off to the side for the latest and greatest. Here's a little YouTube list for your enjoyment. And you'll find that Brittany Howard and Alabama Shakes have a closer connection to these than to Janis Joplin:
Let's start with Memphis Minnie:
check out that Gibson SG she's playin'
Now we'll move on to The Duchess (Bo Diddley's 2nd guitar player):
Now to the soulful, Barbara Lynn:
Now, we're going to present day, before the Alabama Shakes, to the great Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings and my favorite, Mavis Staples:
This is a modern film shot in 2007 on vintage equipment!
singing a song that Jeff Tweedy wrote for her. Mavis has been doing this since the fifties w/ her family gospel group, The Staple Singers. Check out my buddies backing her up: Rick Holmstrom (g), Jeff Turmes (b) and Stephen Hodges (d)
Managed to get this done w/o any Janis Joplin! Thanks Alabama Shakes for keeping it going and letting a little more fresh air in the window.