Alabama Shakes: MB Evolution Tour Artist Spotlight

Alabama Shakes
ATO Records

Take a closer look at Alabama Shakes, one of three artists headlining the Mercedes-Benz Evolution Tour this summer & fall. See our full MB Evolution Tour hub here.

It took only three years for Alabama Shakes to go from after-school music project to veritable stars. Formed by singer/guitarist Brittany Howard and bassist Zach Cockrell in Athens, Alabama, the group soon came to include drummer Steve Johnson and guitarist Heath Fogg, becoming the formidable Southern soul quartet they are today. Originally, they were just known as the Shakes, but added their home state to their name to set them apart from other acts with a similar moniker.


While touching on the throwback vibes of Janis, Skynyrd, Aretha, Creedence, and the Muscle Shoals sound, the band was able to craft a sound all its own, thanks in part to Howard's show-stopping vocals. She can belt it out with the best of them, then suddenly take it down to a gentle whisper.

Alabama Shakes' exceptional live show and 2011 self-titled four-song EP, buoyed by the rousing single "Hold On," soon gained them national exposure and a deal with Dave Matthews' ATO Records.

As the buzz grew and the accolades amassed, Alabama Shakes were offered bigger stages and continued to blow away crowds. 2012 marked their breakout, with a performance on Conan and a run of hype-exceeding gigs at SXSW. In April, they released their acclaimed debut full-length, "Boys & Girls," which peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard 200. Later that year, they were invited to contribute a new song, "Always Alright," to the "Silver Linings Playbook" soundtrack, and played high-profile sets at Bonnaroo and Newport Folk. In December 2012, they were nominated for two Grammys: Best New Artist, and Best Rock Performance for 'Hold On.'

2013 saw the group's star rise even higher. In February, they were the musical guest on "Saturday Night Live," performing "Hold On" and "Always Alright" on an episode hosted by Oscar winner Christoph Waltz. A few weeks later, "Boys & Girls" was certified gold by the RIAA. Jack White, a big fan of the group, invited Howard to record two songs with vocalist Ruby Amanfu, covering Rodriguez's "I Wonder" and Memphis Minnie's "When My Man Comes Home" for Third Man Records' "blue series" of singles.

Following all that attention, the Shakes took some time off from the road to work on their sophomore album. Last December, drummer Steve Johnson said they had just finished tracking the LP, and had been experimenting with a number of different sounds while retaining the feel of what made Alabama Shakes so special in the first place. The as-yet-untitled record's release date has not yet been set.

See All MB Evolution Tour Headliner Spotlight Features:
Alabama Shakes | Young The Giant | Mayer Hawthorne
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