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This Little Underground: Danny Brown, Alabama Shakes and more

Our music columnist also discusses the Bloody Jug Band’s cameo on the new Pitbull video

Photo: Christopher Garcia, License: N/A

Christopher Garcia

All of this was fully validated in person at their Orlando debut (Dec. 3, Hard Rock Live). This is a total live band. And frontwoman Brittany Howard, she is it: The complete package, the real Mac, a modern classic juggernaut. Even if she was just a vocalist, she’d be a stunner. Her Joplin-meets-Tina voice can flat-out knock you down. But to play guitar, too? Goddamn.

Yes, their vintage bent comes with a lot of automatic advantage. But really, such force, precision and pure, quivering life throws academic arguments out the window. Beyond trend, beyond fashion, this is the kind of band that brings people deep, true and transcendental joy. It’s why both my parents (with whom I went to the show) and I could dig ’em equally and genuinely.

Brooklyn opener Clear Plastic Masks is also informed by classic rock and soul grit. They’re totally solid and competent but less remarkable, and perfect proof that it’s not enough to just mimic the style. You gotta have the songs to be something. You could hit all the marks in the playbook but without that extra something, that pop, that click, you’re somewhere in the middle. That’s right, nowhere. And that’s exactly where Alabama Shakes triumph.

As worthy of a Cinderella story as there is in today’s pop music landscape, the Shakes are a band that, by being in the popular consciousness, makes us a little better. And more than a few times, they raised the hair on my arms. Now that’s something impossible to deny. Once you’re in the same room with them, all questions evaporate.

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