Alabama Shakes - Boys & Girls (ATC) 

Lots of surprises to be found in this little band from Athens, Ala.

The radical stuff erupts out of "Hold On" with such anguish that I'm amazed that singer Brittany Howard's vocal chords are still intact. In fact, I'm amazed so many people have heard it. When "Hold" dropped as the first single, nobody ever heard of Alabama Shakes, and three months later, the CD is available at every Starbucks location in the United States. Such hipster trending! When the Shakes began making TV appearances, (Conan, Letterman, etc...) the public began investing in (or stealing) this little chunk of Southern soul, and that's a good thing. Better this than Kelly Clarkson. 

"Hang Loose" takes a drive through the Motor City circa '63, and Miss Howard can wail like young Aretha. The disc also has its fair share of piano ballads, with little more than a crash cymbal and some light guitar inter-working. The title song and standout, "Boys & Girls," shows how ballads can work magic when the singer means it. Anyone who loves blues-rock must get this. There are lots of surprises to be found in this little band from Athens, Ala., who are suddenly getting all the boys and girls with true authenticity.

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