Will Alabama Shakes get a hold on Minneapolis?

Alabama_Shakes_Pieter_Van_Hattem.jpg
Photo by Pieter van Hattem

Related:
Dawes finds serious fan base in Minnesota

With the release of their debut album Boys & Girls a couple of weeks ago, Alabama Shakes put forth yet another record the roots of which can be traced back to the Flying Burrito Brothers, CSN&Y and the early '70s bands of their ilk. It's easy on the ears, and filled of songs that'll foster a string of singalongs at campfires everywhere this summer. In short, the Shakes sound like country music that it's okay to admit you like and there isn't necessarily anything wrong with that.

When "Hold On" was released a couple of months ago, it was, unsurprisingly, an instant hit on our local public radio station the Current. People in this town are inexplicably drawn to music in this vein like a moth to flame.


It's not a bad thing, but just sort of a curious occurrence. Dawes sold out shows here long before they did anywhere else in the heartland. While much of that could also be attributed to the Current, the twangy guitars, plunking pianos, and the like are always a huge hit in this city and I would wager would be a hit with crowds even without the so-called "Current Effect" that causes shows to sell out here that do not in other cities -- even giant ones like Chicago.

The countrified rock put forth by Alabama Shakes is tailor-made for Minneapolis. For years, this city has gone rabid for bands in this genre starting from Wilco to Drive-By Truckers and the list goes on. Once called Americana  -- and, really, still called that, though the genre now has numerous splinter cells -- it has always been enormously popular here and shows no sign of waning. With every new band in this genre that pops up on the radar, so, too, does a new crop of fans -- or more likely the same group of fans who have all found a new band to love. Alabama Shakes play here in August and while it's not sold out yet, but the time the show rolls around it most certainly will be. Unlike Dawes, in particular, though, the Shakes instantly made a fairly large splash across the country.

In reading reviews of Boys & Girls, whether good or bad -- though the vast majority have been glowing -- one phrase seems to crop up in nearly every one: "stripped down." Those two words both perfectly describe the sound and also may explain a lot about the rise of this just two-year-old band, a rise that really could be described as meteoric. 


The songs have simple melodies and concise lyrics. While many people, this writer included, will profess to love music that's semi-complicated and "new" and while that statement may indeed be true, when songs are simply arranged they sound familiar, even if they really aren't. Alabama Shakes sounds like a record that was in your dad's collection forty years ago though it's likely better, save for his copy of Harvest. It's musical comfort food that sounds like you've been listening to it since you were a little kid in the basement of the house you grew up in.

Humans are nostalgic for the things that made them happy in the past and Alabama Shakes fits that bill even though they're brand new. They have fit themselves into a tiny crevasse previously occupied only by Wilco's pre-YHF discography and DBT's Southern Rock Opera in furnishing the listening public with something that's never really been heard before and making it seem exceedingly familiar.

And not familiar in that "this sounds like a rip-off" way in the least. Rather, the Shakes combined southern-fried rock, country, and the sun-drenched Laurel Canyon sound into an intoxicating mixture that, if the first album is any indication -- and to be fair the band indeed sounds like they are still growing, which is an excellent sign -- could signal the arrival of a band for the ages when all is said and done. A lot can happen between a debut and a sophomore release (see: Interpol's Antics) but Alabama Shakes seem to have hit upon something that is going to keep them afloat for a long while.

Alabama Shakes. With Dry the River. Thursday, August 2 at First Avenue. Tickets on sale Friday, April 27 at 10 a.m. Click here.


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dugsterdiver
dugsterdiver

I don't know why this is always the way up here (in MN I mean). It's as if we can't like something for fear that we are too much like people other places think we are. And then we have to ruminate on the idea for a while that maybe we are different up here, and start a dicussion to that end. I don't see the angry judgemental tone in the article, but I do think it's apparent that we are deeply introspective as a music-loving scene, and people have very heartfelt allegiances to what is in someways a traditional, folksy, alt-country vibe, while others are strongly attracted to the "new" indie sounds that also come out of the same place. In my opinion, there's room for both, but somehow the rivalries between the two come out in this suggestive tone - that we can't be both because that somehow contradicts our authenticity one way or the other.I say this as a transplant from the east coast, where this never seems to be a an issue. Maybe it's the "fly-over syndrome," where you have to prove that you're a real scene to get the credibility from those outside the area. It also manifests in the many lists that we focus on that we think somehow validate our standing, as if we need to be told constantly that we are good enough.  I'm happy that Reed opens the arena for discussion, but as for the Shakes, I think it's not really an issue that they will sell out, and no question they have a great sound that we will eat up.And I like Dawes. There, I said it. I feel better already...

Present
Present

read the first paragraph out loud then.  the word 'ilk' has very negative connotations, the comparison to "campfire singalong songs" indicates the writer feels this artist plays simple, unsophisticated music, that the fans listen to with no thought or higher understanding because they can only react like 'a moth to a flame', words have meanings and connotations "twangy guitars and plunking piano" are quite derisive, and the topic was so beneath the taste of this new music kingmaker than they couldn't even verify the simple fact the story is based on: the tickets go on sale on FRIDAY this week.  Even the last sentence says this band can only 'stay afloat'...  

So Reed, can we assume at least you'll get that date correct in a story about Built to Spill? (I am available to proofread/fact check any articles you don't have time to)

Guest
Guest

Well, Present, while you're at the fact-checking, take a look at who wrote the article--it wasn't Reed. You might not be the world-class proofreader you claim to be.

Present
Present

I don't recall claiming to be a proofreader but I do recall City Pages claiming to be journalism.  Oh, an I just bought two tickets to this show.

Present
Present

Reed Fischer is the Music Editor by title dumbass.  An editor gives final approval on stories before publication (printed or posted).  

Reed Fischer
Reed Fischer

I'd like to think all of us get to work out our issues here at Gimme Noise. Glad to help you voice your Dawes feelings.

Daniel Loftus
Daniel Loftus

NAIL ON HEAD.. Nice write-up. I would also add a little Aretha and James Brown in there too!

Present
Present

First Avenue Tickets on sale this week - April 26, 2012Submitted by mr.gilbert on Thu, 04/26/2012 - 12:00pm ON SALE: Thursday 4/26 at NoonCrocodiles in the Entry on Friday, June 22 - CLICK TO PURCHASE ON SALE: Friday, 4/27 at NoonRebel, Rebel - Rock For Pussy IX on Friday, June 8 - CLICK TO PURCHASEThe Mynabirds in the Entry on Friday, June 15 - CLICK TO PURCHASEEmpires in the Entry on Friday, June 29 - CLICK TO PURCHASEEL-P at the Fine Line on Thursday, July 5 - CLICK TO PURCHASEBlitzen Trapper on Sunday, July 8 - CLICK TO PURCHASEThe Bouncing Souls on Saturday, July 28 - CLICK TO PURCHASEAlabama Shakes on Thursday, August 2 - CLICK TO PURCHASEBuilt To Spill on Wednesday, September 19 - CLICK TO PURCHASE 

Scoops
Scoops

Dawes? Country? I dont get any of those references when I listen to these, who I love by the way... I definitely think of classic rock with a little soul when I think of these guys.. By the way.. Dawes are awful!! First time I heard "a little bit of everything" by Dawes i threw up in my mouth.. 

brokenhalo
brokenhalo

Are you allergic to biscuits and beans? Is that why you threw up?

Present
Present

1) why the angry judgemental tone?  2) it's not sold out yet cuz the tickets don't go onsale until tomorrow... 3) Muscle Shoals not Laurel Canyon.  No one familiar with the term would say this record has any Laurel Canyon style/sound in it...  4) what did your editor say when assigning this piece "try to piss people off and throw in some incorrect/ignorant tidbits"?

Some people like it, some people don't.  Why start a pissing contest?  What's the motivation in that?  What makes you somehow superior cuz you like new music (first time I heard Alabama Shakes was when I watched their first clip on youtube when it had about 200 views.  I found it next to the clip from Slithering Beast I was watching.  But that doesn't make me somehow better than anyone else... my point is that Alabama Shakes are new music.  A new interpretation of music that is loved by, literally, millions of people.)  Maybe you could write about your first European tour playing the songs you wrote when you were 22 years old when you were 22 years old...   

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