Alabama Shakes are becoming legends in their own time, praised by fans and critics for their powerful, soul-infused performances and back-to-basics approach to making timeless rock music. You can now listen to their debut album, Boys and Girls, at NPR Music.
While you’re doing that, catch up on the history of the band and find out why they blew up in our current cover story.
Here’s an excerpt:
Or take “Hold On,” in which Howard sings, “Never thought I’d make it to twenty-two years old,” and calls out her own name. When asked if she’s using poetic license in that fatalistic line, she begins describing the night the song first came together. Fogg and Cockrell had been working on its basic opening groove, but Howard had yet to write a real melody or any lyrics. One night before one of the band’s epic sets at The Brick, she instructed the musicians to start playing it unexpectedly at some point in the evening. “We talked about playing it that night, and I told them, ‘Just start playing it and I’ll make up words on the spot.’ “That’s where the song came from. It was a good night for dancing. They started playing it, and I just came up with some words – whatever was on my mind – and that came out.”
That night at The Brick, the first time the band ever performed “Hold On,” Howard said she looked out into the crowd, and people were trying to sing along with the song’s chorus. “I guess they assumed it was someone else’s song, so they were acting like they knew the words. But they didn’t realize we were just making it up. That’s how we knew it was good, and we should keep playing it.”
Check out the iPad version to hear the Shakes cover Led Zeppelin, see behind-the-scenes photos and read photographer Joshua Black Wilson’s commentary from the cover shoot.
Boys and Girls is due 4/10 on ATO Records. Watch the video for “Hold On” below.