Alabama Shakes is an American blues rock band formed in Athens, Alabama, in 2009. The band currently consists of lead singer and guitarist Brittany Howard, guitarist Heath Fogg, bassist Zac Cockrell, and drummer Steve Johnson. The group rose to prominence in the early 2010s with their distinctive and soulful roots rock sound.
Alabama Shakes performing in Santa Monica in 2014
|Origin||Athens, Alabama, U.S.|
|Associated acts||The Revivalists|
The band began its career touring and performing at bars and clubs around the Southeast for two years while honing their sound and writing music. They recorded their debut album, Boys & Girls, with producer Andrija Tokic in Nashville while still unsigned. Online acclaim led ATO Records to sign the band, which released Boys & Girls in 2012 to critical success. The album’s hit single, "Hold On," and was nominated for three Grammy Awards. After a long touring cycle, the band recorded its second record, Sound & Color, which was released in 2015 and debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, and won four Grammy Awards.
Early years (2004–09)Edit
Brittany Howard grew up interested in music, filling notebooks with lyrics and teaching herself to play drums, bass, and guitar. Howard, from East Limestone High School, played in multiple bands growing up that helped to formulate and craft her taste in music. Her most serious band in her early years was Kerosene Swim Team, a rock band that consisted of Owen Whitehurst and Jonathan Passero. They went on to have a single titled "Coffins and Cadillacs" featured on a compilation track from now defunct indie label Volital Records. They would practice daily after school in Passero's garage, Whitehurst's garage, and Howard's house. They mainly played house parties, and their songs consisted of a mix of covers and originals penned by Howard. Both Whitehurst and Passero went on to continue playing backup for Howard, with Whitehurst playing with Howard and Shakes' bassist Zac Cockrell in what would eventually become The Shakes. Whitehurst would play drums and piano, with Howard and Cockrell playing their current respective instruments.
Howard met upperclassman Heath Fogg in junior high when he played guitar at house parties. She met classmate and bassist Zac Cockrell in a psychology class some time later, and they soon began to spend time listening to their favorite music together and writing their own. After graduation, Howard hosted twice-weekly jam sessions at her great-grandparents' former home. Drummer Steve Johnson, who had heard Howard singing at a party years prior, began attending the jam sessions at the suggestion of Cockrell. They began making music together and recording homemade demos having little else to do in the small town.
The group made its live debut in May 2009 under the name "The Shakes". Fogg, by this point a guitarist in the Tuscaloosa-based Tuco's Pistol, invited the group to open for his band at Brick Deli & Tavern in Decatur. The band was nervous to perform for an audience, as they felt "vulnerable." Their set included covers of Led Zeppelin, James Brown, Otis Redding, and AC/DC. The show went over well, and Fogg soon joined the group. During this time the band members held other day jobs: Howard as a fry cook and then a postal worker, Johnson at the Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Plant, Cockrell at an animal clinic, and Fogg painting houses. For much of their early years, the Shakes performed shows on weekends at "sports bars and country dives." They also began recording their debut album at Tokic's Bomb Shelter—the home of producer Andrija Tokic—in Nashville, funding the recordings themselves. The band chose Tokic's over other studios because they record mostly live to tape, and they believed it would spur a livelier performance. The band would complete arrangements in their hometown and drive an hour and a half north to Nashville to record in intervals over the course of 2011.
Their first breakthrough came when Justin Gage, a Los Angeles music blogger and SiriusXM host, found a photo of Howard performing online. After contacting the band, he posted an MP3 of their song "You Ain't Alone" on his music blog, Aquarium Drunkard, in July 2011. By the next morning, the group was awash in offers from record labels and management companies. Gage also contacted Patterson Hood, vocalist of the band Drive-By Truckers, who attended a show not long after. He arranged to set the band up with his managers, Christine Stauder and Kevin Morris. Alabama Shakes released the four-song EP Alabama Shakes in September 2011, which gained media attention (including NPR) and earned them an invitation to play at the CMJ Music Marathon industry showcase in New York. The band began negotiating a record deal with ATO Records and added "Alabama" to their name after Joseph Hicks, of Halo Stereo, noticed how many groups shared the name "The Shakes". They began to open for the Drive-By Truckers. The group considered their ambitions met, but soon, Fogg later recalled, "everything kept going—at, like, a super-fast rate."
Boys & Girls and mainstream success (2012–14)Edit
The band's first full-length album, Boys & Girls, was released in April 2012. It debuted at number 16 on the national charts as a digital-only release, but climbed to number eight as physical releases were distributed. The album received near-universal acclaim. After a European tour, they opened for Jack White over a summer tour and performed at several major music festivals, including Sasquatch, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza. The album's lead single, "Hold On" was a radio hit (peaking at number one on Billboard's Adult Alternative Songs chart) and was dubbed the best song of the year by Rolling Stone.
The New York Times credited their "rapid ascent" to "Howard's singular stage presence." The group received three nominations for the 2013 Grammy Awards: Best New Artist, Best Rock Performance for "Hold On", and Best Recording Package for their debut album, Boys & Girls. After the Grammy's performance, Boys & Girls returned to the top ten, peaking at number six a year after its release. Boys & Girls was certified Gold by the RIAA for sales of over 500,000 in the United States on March 13, 2013. It has since sold over 744,000 copies in the US.
Sound & Color (2015–present)Edit
The band began recording their second album in late 2013. The group listened to anything and everything for influence, without regard for its public reception in the end. They spent over a year in the studio, with no clear end-goal, as they had not written any new songs due to their exhaustive touring schedule.
The group's second studio album, Sound & Color, was released on April 21, 2015. It debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 in the US, making it the band's first number one album. The record's lead single, "Don't Wanna Fight", was a number two hit on the Adult Alternative Songs chart. The album eventually earned three Grammy Awards, including Best Alternative Music Album.
The band played for the VMworld 2015 Party at ATT park in San Francisco on September 2, 2015 and Barclays British Summer Time in Hyde Park, London on July 8, 2016.
In 2018 the band won a Grammy for their performance of “Killer Diller Blues” in the multi award-winning film The American Epic Sessions directed by Bernard MacMahon. They recorded the song live on the restored first electrical sound recording system from the 1920s.
Early critical reviews of their debut, Boys & Girls (2012), noted that the band borrowed from mid-20th century rhythm and blues. Alongside Howard's voice, the songs were compared to artists such as Janis Joplin, Otis Redding, and Aretha Franklin. Howard herself took inspiration from Bon Scott of AC/DC in her vocal style, praising his "soulful" way of singing. As the acclaim mounted, "reviewers speculated" that their sound was in homage to the music produced in Muscle Shoals, Alabama nearly five decades prior. Cockrell and Fogg were aware of the Shoals legacy, but Howard was more influenced by bands such as Led Zeppelin and artists like David Bowie. The success of debut single "Hold On" led some to believe the group "[was] trying to pass themselves off as revivalists, something they never aspired to be."
- Brittany Howard – lead vocals, rhythm guitar
- Zac Cockrell – bass
- Heath Fogg – lead guitar, backing vocals
- Steve Johnson – drums, backing vocals
Awards and nominationsEdit
|Year||Nominee / work||Award||Result|
|2013||N/A||Best New Artist||Nominated|
|"Hold On"||Best Rock Performance||Nominated|
|2016||"Don't Wanna Fight"||Won|
|Best Rock Song||Won|
|Sound & Color||Album of the Year||Nominated|
|Best Alternative Music Album||Won|
|2017||"Joe" (Live from Austin City Limits)||Best Rock Performance||Nominated|
|2018||"Killer Diller Blues" (The American Epic Sessions)||Best American Roots Performance||Won|
|Year||Nominee / work||Award||Result|
|2012||Boys & Girls||Independent Music Awards for Independent Album of the Year||Nominated|
|Alabama Shakes||Q Award for Best New Act||Nominated|
|Americana Music Honors & Award for Emerging Artist of the Year||Won|
|Rober Awards Music Poll for Best Songwriter||Nominated|
|2013||BRIT Award for International Group||Nominated|
|NME Awards for Best New Band||Nominated|
|2015||NME Awards for Best International Band||Nominated|
|Rober Awards Music Poll for Best Group or Duo||Nominated|
|Rober Awards Music Poll for Best Rock Artist||Nominated|
|2016||BRIT Award for International Group||Nominated|
|Sound & Color||Billboard Music Awards for Top Rock Album||Nominated|
- Rhodes, Joe (March 29, 2015). "Alabama Shakes's Soul-Stirring, Shape-Shifting New Sound". The New York Times. Retrieved June 30, 2015.
- Whitehouse, David (7 April 2012). "Boys & Girls, meet the Alabama Shakes". The Guardian. Retrieved November 21, 2017.
- Crawford, Jan (May 3, 2015). "Alabama Shakes: Fearless and free". CBS News. Retrieved June 30, 2015.
- Mansfield, Brian (April 27, 2012). "Meet the Alabama Shakes". USA Today. Retrieved June 30, 2015.
- Browne, David (March 25, 2015). "How Alabama Shakes Gambled Big on Wild Second Album 'Sound & Color'". Rolling Stone. No. 1232. New York City: Wenner Media LLC. ISSN 0035-791X. Retrieved June 30, 2015.
- "Alabama Shakes: Full Of 'Southern Soul'". All Things Considered. NPR. April 11, 2012. Retrieved June 30, 2015.
- Frost, Matt (July 2012). "Andrija Tokic: Recording Alabama Shakes' Boys & Girls". Sound on Sound. Retrieved June 30, 2015.
- Gage, Justin (July 25, 2011). "The Shakes: You Ain't Alone". Aquarium Drunkard. Retrieved June 30, 2015.
- Lamont, Tom (March 29, 2015). "Alabama Shakes: from small-town bar band to titans of rock". The Guardian. Retrieved June 30, 2015.
- Powers, Ann (14 October 2011). "How To Keep It Real When Making New Soul: Three Attempts". The Record: Music News from NPR. Retrieved October 29, 2012.
- Ramsey, Jan (January 18, 2012). "The Alabama Shakes: Right At Home with Newfound Fame". OffBeat. Retrieved January 27, 2012.
- Mongillo, Peter (February 8, 2012). "Once a cover act, Alabama Shakes rock and soul band draws notice". Austin American-Statesman. Retrieved May 12, 2012.
- Peisner, David (February 2, 2012). "Muscle Shoals Revival: Alabama Shakes Take Off". Rolling Stone. Retrieved May 12, 2012.
- Thompson, Stephen (April 1, 2012). "First Listen: Alabama Shakes, 'Boys And Girls'". NPR Music. NPR. Retrieved April 2, 2012.
- Claufield, Keith (April 29, 2015). "Alabama Shakes Scores Its First No. 1 Album on Billboard 200 Chart". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved April 29, 2015.
- Hermes, Will (February 28, 2013). "Alabama Shakes' Unlikely Triumph". Rolling Stone. No. 1178. New York City: Wenner Media LLC. ISSN 0035-791X. Retrieved June 30, 2015.
- "55th Annual Grammy Awards Nominees". Grammy.com. The Recording Academy. Archived from the original on December 1, 2011. Retrieved December 7, 2012.
- Colurso, Mary (February 11, 2013). "Alabama ties: 2013 Grammy nods for Alabama Shakes, Casting Crowns, Civil Wars, more". The Birmingham News. Retrieved December 7, 2012.
- "RIAA News Room - Nine Acts Spring Forward With New Multi-Platinum Awards". Recording Industry Association of America. March 13, 2013. Archived from the original on July 3, 2015. Retrieved April 24, 2015.
- Stern, Claire (July 30, 2014). "Brittany Howard of the Alabama Shakes Shares Her Tour Must-Haves". InStyle. Retrieved April 24, 2015.
- Terry, Josh (February 10, 2015). "Alabama Shakes announce new album, Sound & Color, premiere "Don't Wanna Fight" — listen". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved April 24, 2015.
- Coughlan, Jamie (February 11, 2015). "Alabama Shakes Share 'Don't Wanna Fight', Announce New Album". Overblown.co.uk. Retrieved April 24, 2015.
- Gibsone, Harriet (February 15, 2016). "Alabama Shakes win best alternative music album Grammy for Sound & Color". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved March 2, 2016.
- Young, Alex (February 15, 2016). "2016 Grammy Winners: Kendrick Lamar, Alabama Shakes, David Bowie". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved March 2, 2016.
- "60th GRAMMY Awards: Winners & Nominees (2017)". Grammy.com. Retrieved 2018-01-28.
- "Watch Alabama Shakes Travel Back In Time With Cover Of 'Killer Diller'". NPR.org. Retrieved 2018-01-28.
- Charlton, Lauretta (June 12, 2015). "Alabama Shakes: 'There's No Way to Be Original'". Vulture. Retrieved June 30, 2015.
- Dolan, Jon (April 10, 2012). "The Alabama Shakes – 'Boys & Girls'". Rolling Stone. No. 1155. New York City: Wenner Media LLC. ISSN 0035-791X. Retrieved June 30, 2015.
- Dionne, Zach (April 29, 2016). "Drake Doesn't Talk to Nicki Minaj, Loves Alabama Shakes & Taylor Swift". Fuse.tv. Retrieved November 21, 2017.
- Ramos, Adam (November 30, 2016). "The welcomed evolution of Donald Glover". The Observer. University of Notre Dame. Retrieved November 21, 2017.
- Spanos, Brittany (April 26, 2016). "How Beyonce's 'Lemonade' Reclaims Rock's Black Female Legacy". Rolling Stone. Retrieved November 21, 2017.
- Wake, Matt (January 21, 2014). "Ben Tanner: In-demand keyboardist talks Belle Adair's Huntsville show, touring and recording with Alabama Shakes". The Birmingham News. Retrieved November 21, 2017.
- "Alabama Shakes: Live from the Artists Den". The Artists Den. Retrieved November 21, 2017.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Alabama Shakes.|
- Official website
- Live recordings by Alabama Shakes at the Internet Archive
- Alabama Shakes artist page: interviews, features, performances archived at NPR Music
- Brittany Howard Releases New Single (along with Jack White band member Ruby Amanfu
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