Greatest hits: album reviews

Album of the week: Sound & Colour by Alabama Shakes

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 May, 2015, 10:51pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 May, 2015, 10:51pm

Sound & Colour
Alabama Shakes
Rough Trade

It's a little more than three years since Alabama Shakes blazed onto the scene like wildfire behind the bluesy Southern rock rasp of lead singer and former truck driver Brittany Howard.

Their debut album Boys & Girls, which opened with the glorious Grammy-winning single Hold On, was an outstanding collection of retro garage soul. But despite the mesmerising star that was Howard, it failed to capture the excitement of their live shows. Then as quickly as they arrived, they disappeared.

It certainly wouldn't have been a surprise if their second album turned out to be a lacklustre rehash of their first, held together purely by that voice and met with little warmth. Well ye of little faith. With Sound & Colour, an ambitious psych funk soul exploration brimming with confidence and built around a family vibe, Alabama Shakes have shown they are far from being a one-trick pony and more than simply a backing band to a dynamic earth-shaking vocalist.

On swaggering lead single Don't Wanna Fight, Howard and guitarist Heath Fogg duel six-string grooves over James Brown funk, while the soulful, stripped-down burners Gimme All Your Love and This Feeling invoke Otis Redding and Al Green. But this is far from imitation. Drawing from a number of sounds and genres, you can feel the confidence within the music as the band stride boldly forward, as on the reverb funk of Future People. Although Howard is still the howling force of nature around which everything revolves, the songs now soar with freedom where they once sagged under pressure.

With a heart of vintage soul and a mind set firmly on the kaleidoscopic future, Sound & Colour leaves the ground shaking.