Brittany Howard is my new favorite singer. Not only because she is big and bold and unafraid to distort her face if the vocal sound she produces warrants her doing so. She is the new “it” girl and a force of nature to boot, and you can say you heard it hear first She reminds me of the way Phoebe Snow looked at the beginning of her career. Phoebe surely must have been bullied by the record companies to lose weight, straighten her hair and “wear some makeup if you want to sell records.” In this day and age of over-produced, perfect sounding, looking, marketed and packaged music, Brittany is a refreshing newly defined diva of soul on the indie scene. She is the emotion packed, gut wrenching, versatile lead singer, songwriter and guitarist of Alabama Shakes.
The Alabama Shakes are four musicians from North Alabama who grew up together in a small town fifteen miles from the Tennessee state line. They formed a rock and roll band after high school, and started playing together two evenings a week after their day jobs finished. Brittany was the impetus for forming the group, she noticed Zac Cockrell in the halls of her high school wearing a T shirt from an obscure band and said to herself, “This guy must be cool.” She convinced him to get together at her house to play some music and the Shakes were born. Later they changed their name to Alabama Shakes. The group recorded a few tracks in Nashville in early 2011 and played a show at a record store there. The fan base quickly grew.
The full length debut album, Boys & Girls, which just was released the week of 4/10/2012, is going to make her America’s answer to Adele, mark my words. Maybe she doesn’t have the coveted angelic features of Adele, but she knows who she is and what she is singing about, and she is a powerhouse force to be reckoned with. I happened to catch her on the Conan O’Brien Show and last nite on Letterman and was instantly smitten.
Her chunky, bluesy, no-glam approach makes her an unlikely frontwoman but her raw energy, Southern charm and vocal style reminded me of Janis Joplin meets Etta James with a pinch of Billie Holiday. It’s that old-school crooner stance that just rivets the listener. And like I said, if lookin’ ugly sounds pretty, then she’s going there. “Hold On,” the album’s lead single, has Howard making major dynamic changes, from soft, calm tones to powerful, gritty screaming. The band’s backup vocals blend well with Howard’s heavy belting and the tambourine and guitars add to the organic mix.
Kristyn Winch writes for many music online sites and said, “Alabama Shakes isn’t the only throwback band on the scene right now, but it has one of the strongest singers in the business. Over the course of the record, Howard will make you smile, cry, dance and scream right along with her. With Howard behind the microphone, the band will be cranking out hits for years to come.”
Brittany is not your typical looking music star on the scene today, but she will win you over instantly. I happen to prefer my divas with diversity, dynamism and talent, thank you very much. Don’t change a hair, Brittany. You are perfect. We’ll be watching…