A journey that began in 2009 has resulted in two studio albums and three Grammy wins for Alabama Shakes. There aren’t a lot of blues rock bands that can lay claim to hitting these heights in such a short span of time.
Blues rock is not an easy genre to master because it is a fusion of blues and rock music. This is a genre that was first mastered by the likes of the Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac and Jimmy Reed. Now the baton has been picked by Alabama Shakes and they have added something different to the genre. They will most probably hit the road soon and once that happens, Alabama Shakes tickets are going be in demand. Fans will be queuing up to buy their tickets and it is easy to see why.
Alabama Shakes is basically Brittany Howard’s idea. Howard got hooked to music at a very young age and interestingly enough, she still remembers very clearly the moment she decided to form a band of her own. Howard was 11 or 12 when she attended a concert in her school. The headliners were some of her classmates. In an interview with Fresh Air, this is what she said about that concert:
"Probably about 45, 50 kids showed up that night, and we watched them play and ... it was like having a double life. It was like watching a James Bond film. I didn't know these kids had these talents. "I was like, 'That is what I want to do,' because I was so amazed."
Her early years weren’t without personal hardships though. Her sister, who was just thirteen years old, died of cancer. Howard has learnt writing poetry and how to play the piano from her sister.
Brittany Howard then began to write lyrics on a regular basis and started to learn other instruments like bass and drums. That was followed by her joining quite a few bands during her high school days and the shows that she did back then gave her a taste of how it felt to play live. More importantly, those shows honed her skills.
One of the bands she was part of back then was named “Kerosene Swim Team” and it had Jonathan Passero and Owen Whitehurst as members. The band came out with a single Coffins and Cadillacs. Kerosene Swim Team used to rehearse after school on a regular basis and also played at house parties.
The Inception of Alabama Shakes
Howard had met Heath Fogg when she was in junior high and then she got to meet Zac Cockrell a few years later in a psychology class. Cockrell and Howard began to write and perform together. Then once she had graduated, Howard started off hosting jam sessions twice a week. Steve Johnson, the current drummer of Alabama Shakes, was asked by Cockrell to join them. The three of them began to record a few demo tapes.
They named the band “The Shakes” and in May of 2009 performed live for the first time. Heath Fogg used to be a guitarist in a band named “Tuco’s Pistol.” The group was based in Tuscaloosa and Fogg invited The Shakes to open for them at the Brick Deli & Tavern in the city of Decatur. The Shakes performed covers of songs by AC/DC, Otis Redding, James Brown and Led Zeppelin. Their performance went very well and Fogg joined them shortly afterwards.
Since they all had different jobs, The Shakes would mostly play over the weekends in different bars and clubs. At the same time, they started to work on their debut album. They would work on the arrangements at home and then would hit the road and drive for an hour and a half to do the recordings in Nashville.
The First Breakthrough
Alabama Shakes received their first breakthrough when Justin Cage who was an LA based blogger and host on SiriusXM saw a picture of Howard online. He immediately got in touch with the band and then uploaded an MP3 version of their track You Ain’t Alone on his blog. It became such a massive hit that by next morning Alabama Shakes had started to receive offers from record labels.
Alabama Shakes then came out with their EP “Alabama Shakes” in September of 2011 and it received a lot of attention from the media. As a result, they were invited to perform at the CMJ Music Marathon in the Big Apple. The band then began to work on a record deal with ATO Records. They also added the word “Alabama” to their name since The Shakes was a title being used by quite a few bands at the time.
The First Album
Alabama Shakes released their first album “Boys & Girls” in April of 2012 and received overwhelmingly positive critical response. AllMusic and Rolling Stone gave it three and a half stars out of five each. The Daily Telegraph gave the album four stars while it received all five stars from The Independent.
Boys & Girls did equally well on the commercial front. It went on to peak at the second spot on the Billboard US Alternative Albums chart and went to the third position on the US Rock Albums chart. The record also reached the sixth spot on the US Billboard 200.
The album also charted in the UK, Sweden, Norway, Ireland, Switzerland, Germany, France and Spain among other countries. It also went platinum in the US and Canada while getting gold certification in the UK. Alabama Shakes also earned three Grammy nominations for the record.
The Second Album
After going on tours and performing at major festivals, Alabama Shakes hit the studios once again to work on their next record. The result was “Sound & Color” that showed the world they were here to stay.
The record went straight to the first spot on the US Billboard 200 on its debut and also peaked at the first spot in Canada. Sound & Color went on to chart in multiple countries like the US, Sweden, Switzerland, Netherlands, France, Ireland, Portugal and Spain among others. The record has been certified gold in the US and Canada. It also won Alabama Shakes three Grammy Awards.
Sound & Color had critics raving about it too. AllMusic and The Independent both gave it four stars out of five. It received three and a half stars from Rolling Stone and five out of five from The Daily Telegraph.
Alabama Shakes Tour Tickets
Alabama Shakes has shaken up blues rock with their music. Their sound has captivated millions around the globe and they are just warming up. The band has been on some epic road trips in the past and fans have bought Alabama Shakes tour tickets in big numbers for those treks. It will not be any different the next time they go on tour and that is a testament to the power of their music.