Alabama Shakes’ stunning second album, “Sound & Color” is a tour de force alt-rock album that effortlessly combines a paired-down blues rock with lead singer Brittany Howard’s intense vocals. Alabama Shakes creates an introspective and mellow atmosphere that perfectly fuses blues and gospel in a way that only a genuinely Southern band could. This album is an astonishing work of Americana, and is perhaps one of the most intriguing blues rock albums to be released since The Black Keys’ album “Brothers.”
Alabama Shakes is a band that is genuinely incomparable, and the synthesis that this album creates from the funk-influenced use of keyboards, blues guitar and downtempo bass is reminiscent of gospel. “Sound & Color” deftly navigates these different genres, paying homage to their Americana roots while blazing forward. The album namesake, which is the opening track, starts with a series of isolated keyboard notes for a minute, before the drums kick in along with the vocals.
The best songs on the album are “Gimme All Your Love” and “Don’t Wanna Fight.” “Gimme All Your Love” begins with simultaneous heavy guitar and bass chords which dissipate into a more blues-influenced riff, while the drumming has a slower tempo that matches the blues riff. This ultimately gives ample room for Howard’s full vocals to sear through the track, along with the heavy bass and guitar riff at the beginning of each bar. Her vocals are searing and reminiscent of Janis Joplin. “Don’t Wanna Fight” is the most palpably funky track on the album, with a killer bass line and heavy use of keyboards. These two songs show their astonishing capacity to navigate diverse genres within the album, without forgoing the unity of the album.
This album still has a few pitfalls though, most conspicuous being that it seems to follow generic conventions to a tee. While the album does unify different characteristics of various genres in unique ways, it does not actually pursue this change in a way that disrupts the genres. The guitar riffs are very standard blues guitar riffs, and the funk elements are transparently funk elements. While this isn’t that major, it results in the album feeling a little bland toward the end.
Despite this, “Sound & Color” still does an incredible job of giving their lead singer plenty of room to showcase her ability to croon, while not giving too much space. The instrumentals have a restrained quality that complements the blues atmosphere, and harmoniously blends with Howard’s operatic singing. With “Sound & Color” Alabama Shakes constructs an excellent blues-rock album.
Rating: 4 stars