First Listen: Alabama Shakes, 'Sound & Color'

April 13, 2015 3:03 AM

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First Listen: Alabama Shakes, 'Sound & Color'

In the six years I've lived in the region, I've developed a mantra: Southern freaks are the best freaks. For me, the word "freak" can be both positive and downright spiritual. It describes serious individualists who are tolerant of others whose own paths may diverge from their own; people whose ways of thinking connect to form an antidote to the deep conventionality that often surrounds them. Southern freaks, like the four young musicians in Alabama Shakes, face multiple challenges: not only the love of tradition (and defensive attitude about it) that their neighbors nurture, but also the prejudices of those who live elsewhere and expect Southerners to be somehow limited by their native surroundings. Southern freaks are the best freaks because they have the resilience to flourish in a home that can feel foreign, while also recognizing that legacies can't be simply processed. They must be lived, confronted and altered from within.

Brittany Howard expresses this more fancifully in "Gemini," the first song the band recorded for its boundary-leaping second album, Sound & Color. "On a planet not so far away, we were born together," she sings, maybe to her lost sister, a lover or a best friend, in a voice that contains shadows of ...

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