“We took our time to write this record, and I’m really glad we did,” says Brittany Howard, lead singer and guitarist of Alabama Shakes, about the band’s new album Sound & Color. “We were able to sit down and think about what’s exciting to us, explore all the things we wanted to on our first album. This record is full of genre-bending songs—it’s even harder now when people ask, ‘What kind of band are you?’ I have no clue.”
Sound & Color is the eagerly anticipated follow-up to the Shakes’ 2012 debut Boys & Girls, which earned the group three Grammy nominations, including a nod for Best New Artist. The gold-certified album’s breakthrough paved the way for the Shakes—Howard, guitarist Heath Fogg, bassist Zac Cockrell, drummer Steve Johnson, and touring keyboard players Ben Tanner and Paul Horton—to become one of the most celebrated live acts in the world, as they delivered unforgettable performances everywhere from Saturday Night Live to the main stages of such festivals as Bonnaroo and Glastonbury.
“There was definitely a slight wave of pressure after that success,” says Fogg, “but everyone was really on the same page about letting that pass and making the record that we wanted to make, trying to be creative and free and not limit ourselves.”
The album’s twelve songs reveal a band honed by years on the road, and drawing from a wide range of influences. The bluesy groove of “Shoegaze” or the garage-rock freak-out on “The Greatest” give way to the psychedelic space jam “Gemini.” The gently swaying, chiming title song opens the album with what Howard calls “more of a visual thing, I think of this whole scene going on,” then explodes into the urgent, tightly-coiled funk of “Don’t Wanna Fight.” Long instrumental intros and passages create hazy atmosphere, and then the intensity of Howard’s vocals snaps everything back into riveting focus.
She explains that there were a few specific recordings that were touchstones for Sound & Color. “The Superfly soundtrack, Gil Scott-Heron’s music and how minimal it could be, David Axelrod—not so much wanting to sound like them, but all of their attention to small details. With ‘Gemini,’ I thought about how the Temptations used to write pop songs, but then got really far out on ‘Cloud Nine’ or ‘Psychedelic Shack.’ I imagined myself in the situation of the African-American groups in the ‘70s, when synthesizers had just come out and they were making all of this moody stuff.”
Albert Nelson (April 25, 1923 – December 21, 1992), known by his stage name Albert King, was an American blues guitarist and singer whose playing influenced many other blues guitarists. He is perhaps best known for the popular and influential album Born Under a Bad Sign (1967) and its title track. He, B.B. King, and Freddie King, all unrelated, were known as the "Kings of the Blues." The left-handed King was known for his "deep, dramatic sound that was widely imitated by both blues and rock guitarists."
He was once nicknamed "The Velvet Bulldozer" because of his smooth singing and large size–he stood taller than average, with sources reporting 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) or 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m), and weighed 250 lb (110 kg)–and also because he drove a bulldozer in one of his day jobs early in his career.
King was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1983. He was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013. In 2011, he was ranked number 13 on Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.
Albert King was born on a cotton plantation in Indianola, Mississippi. During childhood he sang at a church with a family gospel group, in which his father played the guitar. One of 13 children, he grew up picking cotton on plantations near Forrest City, Arkansas, where the family moved when he was eight years old.
King's identity was a longtime source of confusion. He stated in interviews that he was born in Indianola on April 25, 1923 (or 1924), and was a half-brother of B.B. King (an Indianola native) but, documentation suggests otherwise. King stated that whenever he performed at Club Ebony in Indianola, the event was celebrated as a homecoming, and he cited the fact that B.B.'s father was named Albert King. However, when he applied for a Social Security card in 1942, he gave his birthplace as "Aboden" (most likely Aberdeen, Mississippi) and signed his name as Albert Nelson, listing his father as Will Nelson. Musicians also knew him as Albert Nelson in the 1940s and early 1950s.
He started using the name Albert King in 1953 as an attempt to be associated with B.B King; he was billed as "B.B. King's brother". He also used the same nickname as B.B King, "Blues Boy", and he named his guitar Lucy (B.B. King's guitar was named Lucille). B.B. King later said: "He called his guitar 'Lucy,' and for a while he went around saying he was my brother. That bothered me until I got to know him and realized he was right; he wasn't my brother in blood, but he sure was my brother in the blues."
According to King, his father left the family when Albert was five, and when he was eight he moved with his mother, Mary Blevins, and two sisters to an area near Forrest City, Arkansas. He said his family had also lived in Arcola, Mississippi, for a time. He made his first guitar out of a cigar box, a piece of a bush, and a strand of broom wire. He later bought a real guitar for $1.25. As a left-hander learning guitar on his own, he turned his guitar upside down. He picked cotton, drove a bulldozer, worked in construction, and held other jobs until he was able to support himself as a musician.
Algiers is an American rock band from Atlanta, Georgia formed in 2012. The band consists of multi-instrumentalists Franklin James Fisher, Ryan Mahan, Lee Tesche, and Matt Tong. Algiers pulls from a divergent number of musical (and nonmusical) influences; the most notable of which being post-punk, gospel, Southern Gothic literature, Hip hop, and the concept of the Other. Their sound has been described as dystopian soul due to its somber mood, afrofolk inspired vocal approach, and heavy emphasis on atonal textures.
Fisher, Mahan, and Tesche met and grew up playing music together in Atlanta, Georgia but officially formed in London in 2012 with the release of their first single. They chose the name Algiers in reference to a key historical site of anti-colonial struggle, symbolizing a contested space where violence, racism, resistance, and religion commingle.
The group released their first single “Blood” in January 2012 via Atlanta based label Double Phantom. Byron Coley for The Wire wrote “Although the fusion may have been touched upon in recordings related to both The Birthday Party and The Gun Club, Algiers are dedicated to grafting gospel music onto post-punk guitar-cuzz...this record is mesmerising and really sucks you in with its weird power.”
The band's self-titled debut album was released through Matador on June 2, 2015. Ahead of their eponymous release, the band opened for Interpol, during their North American Tour. Matt Tong, formerly of Bloc Party, began playing drums for Algiers at this time.
In the spring of the following year, the band premiered and toured the Eastern US screening the sixth installment of Brendan Canty of Fugazi and Christoph Green’s Burn to Shine film series. Burn to Shine Atlanta was curated by Lee Tesche of Algiers and filmed in the summer of 2007. This was followed by a live installation with renowned Japanese flower artist Makoto Azuma that saw the band performing in the Californian desert underneath a palm tree suspended in mid air.
On June 23, 2017, Algiers released their second studio album, The Underside of Power. The album was produced by Adrian Utley of Portishead and Ali Chant and mixed by Randall Dunn. This coincided with a European stadium tour that found the band opening up for Depeche Mode and remixing the lead single from their Spirit album. At the same time, it was revealed that Algiers had also been working in the studio with Massive Attack and were releasing an experimental tape and zine series. Much of 2018 saw the band on the road with Young Fathers, a DIY tour with Downtown Boys, and a special set at the Black Cat 25th anniversary party.
Their live show has been described as "recalling at various points PIL’s dub-style expansions, Afrobeat, industrial, no wave, free jazz, Suicide, the XTC of “Travels in Nihilon,” Nick Cave’s fire and brimstone, and musique concrète."
Ali Ibrahim "Ali Farka" Touré (31 October 1939 – 6 March 2006) was a Malian singer and multi-instrumentalist, and one of the African continent's most internationally renowned musicians. His music is widely regarded as representing a point of intersection of traditional Malian music and its North American cousin, the blues. The belief that the latter is historically derived from the former is reflected in Martin Scorsese's often quoted characterization of Touré's tradition as constituting "the DNA of the blues". Touré was ranked number 76 on Rolling Stone's list of "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" and number 37 on Spin magazine's "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time".
Benjamin Booker (born Benjamin Roderick Evans; June 14, 1989) is an American musician, singer, songwriter and guitarist. He cites The Gun Club, Blind Willie Johnson and T. Rex as influences. His music was described by the Chicago Tribune as "a raw brand of blues/boogie/soul,", by The Independent as "frenzied guitar-strumming and raw, soulful vocals that are hair-raising in intensity" and by SPIN as "bright, furious, explosive garage rock."
Benjamin Booker was born in Virginia Beach, Virginia. His family relocated to Tampa, Florida, where he attended all-ages DIY punk shows as a teenager. He attended Orange Grove Middle School, a magnet school for the performing arts, followed by Hillsborough High School, where he studied in the International Baccalaureate Program. He then attended the University of Florida in Gainesville, studying journalism with intentions of going into music journalism. After college, he moved to New Orleans to work for a non-profit organization and began playing shows. He self-released the four-track EP Waiting Ones in 2012, a collection of "low-fi blues-influenced folk-punk recordings and handclap percussion" that gained the attention of music blog Aquarium Drunkard. The track "Have You Seen My Son" eventually landed on Sirius XM satellite radio. In 2013, he began touring as an electric duo and signed with ATO Records to produce his debut album.
2013–present: Benjamin Booker
Booker's self-titled debut album was recorded in December 2013 at The Bomb Shelter, an analog studio in Nashville. Produced by Andrija Tokic (Alabama Shakes, Hurray for the Riff Raff), the album was released on August 19, 2014 via ATO Records in the United States and Rough Trade Records in Europe. The first single from the album, "Violent Shiver," was released in April 2014. The album received early praise, debuting in the top 10 of Billboard's Alternative Albums and Independent Albums charts and leading to Benjamin Booker being named an "artist you need to know" by Rolling Stone, "the best of what's next" by Paste Magazine and a "contender for rock record of the year" by SPIN. Benjamin Booker also performed on late night television programs Late Night with David Letterman, Conan and Later With Jools Holland.
Since release, in addition to touring with Jack White and Courtney Barnett, Booker, accompanied by drummer Max Norton and bassist Alex Spoto, has played international headlining tours and performed at a number of festivals. In 2013, he performed at FYF Fest, the Newport Folk Festival, the Austin City Limits Music Festival, Voodoo Experience and Lollapalooza, where Rolling Stone named his performance the festival's "best rock star moment... best experienced live and turned up to 11". Internationally, he has appeared on the lineups of France's Festival Les InRocks Philips and Australia's St Jerome's Laneway Festival.
William Harrison Withers Jr. (born July 4, 1938) is an American singer-songwriter and musician who performed and recorded from 1970 until 1985. He recorded several major hits, including "Lean on Me", "Ain't No Sunshine", "Use Me", "Just the Two of Us", "Lovely Day", and "Grandma's Hands". Withers won three Grammy Awards and was nominated for four more. His life was the subject of the 2009 documentary film Still Bill. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.
Bill Withers was born in the small coal-mining town of Slab Fork, West Virginia. He was born with a stutter and has said he had a hard time fitting in. Raised in nearby Beckley, he was 13 years old when his father died. Withers enlisted with the United States Navy at the age of 18 and served for nine years, during which time he overcame his stutter and became interested in singing and writing songs.
He left the Navy in 1965. Using the $250 he received from selling his furniture to IBM co-worker Ron Sierra, he relocated to Los Angeles in 1967 to start a musical career. Withers worked as an assembler for several different companies, including Douglas Aircraft Corporation, while recording demo tapes with his own money, shopping them around and performing in clubs at night. When he debuted with the song "Ain't No Sunshine", he refused to resign from his job because he believed the music business was a fickle industry.
Bob Dylan (born Robert Allen Zimmerman; May 24, 1941) is an American singer-songwriter, author and visual artist. Often regarded as one of the greatest songwriters of all time, Dylan has been a major figure in popular culture during a career spanning nearly 60 years. Much of his most celebrated work dates from the 1960s, when songs such as "Blowin' in the Wind" (1963) and "The Times They Are a-Changin'" (1964) became anthems for the civil rights and anti-war movements. His lyrics during this period incorporated a range of political, social, philosophical, and literary influences, defying pop music conventions and appealing to the burgeoning counterculture.
Following his self-titled debut album in 1962, which mainly comprised traditional folk songs, Dylan made his breakthrough as a songwriter with the release of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan the following year. The album features "Blowin' in the Wind" and the thematically complex "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall". Many of his songs adapted the tunes and phraseology of older folk songs. He went on to release the politically charged The Times They Are a-Changin' and the more lyrically abstract and introspective Another Side of Bob Dylan in 1964. In 1965 and 1966, Dylan drew controversy when he adopted electrically amplified rock instrumentation, and in the space of 15 months recorded three of the most important and influential rock albums of the 1960s: Bringing It All Back Home (1965), Highway 61 Revisited (1965) and Blonde on Blonde (1966). Commenting on the six-minute single "Like a Rolling Stone" (1965), Rolling Stone wrote: "No other pop song has so thoroughly challenged and transformed the commercial laws and artistic conventions of its time, for all time".
In July 1966, a motorcycle accident led to Dylan's withdrawal from touring. During this period, he recorded a large body of songs with members of the Band, who had previously backed him on tour. These recordings were released as the collaborative album The Basement Tapes in 1975. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Dylan explored country music and rural themes in John Wesley Harding (1967), Nashville Skyline (1969), and New Morning (1970). In 1975, he released Blood on the Tracks, which many saw as a return to form. In the late 1970s, he became a born-again Christian and released a series of albums of contemporary gospel music before returning to his more familiar rock-based idiom in the early 1980s. Dylan's 1997 album Time Out of Mind marked the beginning of a renaissance for his career. He has released five critically acclaimed albums of original material since then, the most recent being Rough and Rowdy Ways (2020). He also recorded a series of three albums in the 2010s comprising versions of traditional American standards, especially songs recorded by Frank Sinatra. Backed by a changing lineup of musicians, he has toured steadily since the late 1980s on what has been dubbed the Never Ending Tour.
Since 1994, Dylan has published eight books of drawings and paintings, and his work has been exhibited in major art galleries. He has sold more than 125 million records, making him one of the best-selling musicians of all time. He has received numerous awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, ten Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award. Dylan has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. The Pulitzer Prize Board in 2008 awarded him a special citation for "his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power". In 2016, Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition".
Robert Calvin Bland (né Robert Calvin Brooks; January 27, 1930 – June 23, 2013), known professionally as Bobby "Blue" Bland, was an American blues singer.
Bland developed a sound that mixed gospel with the blues and R&B. He was described as "among the great storytellers of blues and soul music... [who] created tempestuous arias of love, betrayal and resignation, set against roiling, dramatic orchestrations, and left the listener drained but awed." He was sometimes referred to as the "Lion of the Blues" and as the "Sinatra of the Blues" His music was also influenced by Nat King Cole.
Bland was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1981, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, and the Memphis Music Hall of Fame in 2012. He received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame described him as "second in stature only to B.B. King as a product of Memphis's Beale Street blues scene".
Bobby Long (born Robert Thomas Long, 18 September 1985) is a British singer-songwriter, whose largely acoustic body of work has its roots in folk. Born in Wigan, Greater Manchester, England, he moved at the age of four to Calne, Wiltshire, where he grew up, though he still holds deep roots in Wigan. He currently resides in New York.
Long learned cello and guitar and started writing songs when he was 18. His earliest performing experience was as lead guitarist in a local grunge band. Long moved to London in 2005 to attend London Metropolitan University where he studied sound and media for film. He began playing open-mic nights at local clubs, meeting a coterie of likeminded young musicians, among them Sam Bradley, Marcus Foster and Robert Pattinson, whose career as an actor was just beginning. Long’s career trajectory took a major leap when Pattinson performed the song "Let Me Sign," co-written by Long and Foster, in the 2008 blockbuster vampire film Twilight.
Long graduated from college in June, 2009 (earning a degree in music for film after writing his senior thesis on the social impact of American folk music) and commenced performing full-time. A spring series of showcase dates introduced him to American audiences in New York, Los Angeles and Nashville, and, by July, he embarked on the critically well-received "Dangerous Summer" tour. Long fans, who first discovered his music via the "Twilight" soundtrack, turned out for shows throughout the U.S. and Canada and pushed his MySpace page well over one million page views. He recorded the 10-song collection Dirty Pond Songs to be available at his shows. Recorded in his London bedroom, it included traffic noises and all. "Left to Lie" from Dirty Pond Songs, became an iTunes favorite, topping the site’s "Unsigned" chart and reaching #8 its folk music chart. "The Bounty of Mary Jane" from Dirty Pond Songs and a live version of his "Being a Mockingbird," recorded at Arlene’s Grocery in New York City, were also released via iTunes. "The Dangerous Summer" tour continued until the end of 2009, logging some 80 performances in all.
Christopher William "C.W." Stoneking (born 1974) is an Australian blues singer-songwriter, guitarist and banjo player. He has released three studio albums, King Hokum (March 2005), Jungle Blues (28 August 2008) and Gon' Boogaloo (17 October 2014), on his own King Hokum Records label. At the ARIA Music Awards of 2009 Jungle Blues won Best Blues and Roots Album; he was also nominated for Best Male Artist, Breakthrough Artist – Album, Best Independent Release and Best Cover Art. Gon' Boogaloo peaked at No. 17 on the ARIA Albums Chart.
Don Van Vliet (/væn ˈvliːt/, born Don Glen Vliet; January 15, 1941 – December 17, 2010) was an American singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and visual artist best known by the stage name Captain Beefheart. He conducted a rotating ensemble called the Magic Band, with whom he recorded 13 studio albums between 1964 and 1982. His music blended elements of blues, free jazz, rock, and the avant-garde with idiosyncratic rhythms, absurdist wordplay, and his wide vocal range. Known for his enigmatic persona, Beefheart frequently constructed myths about his life and was known to exercise an almost dictatorial control over his supporting musicians. Although he achieved little commercial success, he sustained a cult following as a "highly significant" and "incalculable" influence on an array of new wave, punk, and experimental rock artists.
An artistic prodigy in his childhood, Van Vliet developed an eclectic musical taste during his teen years in Lancaster, California, and formed "a mutually useful but volatile" friendship with musician Frank Zappa, with whom he sporadically competed and collaborated. He began performing with his Captain Beefheart persona in 1964 and joined the original Magic Band line-up, initiated by Alexis Snouffer, the same year. The group released their debut album Safe as Milk in 1967 on Buddah Records. After being dropped by two consecutive record labels they signed to Zappa's Straight Records, where they released 1969's Trout Mask Replica; the album would later rank 58th in Rolling Stone magazine's 2003 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In 1974, frustrated by lack of commercial success, he pursued a more conventional rock sound, but the ensuing albums were critically panned; this move, combined with not having been paid for a European tour, and years of enduring Beefheart's abusive behavior, led the entire band to quit.
Beefheart eventually formed a new Magic Band with a group of younger musicians and regained critical approval through three final albums: Shiny Beast (1978), Doc at the Radar Station (1980) and Ice Cream for Crow (1982). Van Vliet made few public appearances after his retirement from music in 1982. He pursued a career in art, an interest that originated in his childhood talent for sculpture, and a venture which proved to be his most financially secure. His expressionist paintings and drawings command high prices, and have been exhibited in art galleries and museums across the world. Van Vliet died in 2010, having suffered from multiple sclerosis for many years.