There has been a lot of hype surrounding Alabama Shakes. Formed in 2009, they have recently had the endorsements of Jack White [they are supporting him on his up coming tour] and the godfather himself Tom Jones. Their single 'Hold On' has been on the BBC Radio 6 playlist for weeks now and they are being hailed as 'the next big thing'. So many bands are hyped up to the point of annoyance these days, and the question is, do Alabama Shakes live up to this hype? My answer is yes.

Boys and Girls is a powerful album. It draws you in, shakes you up, and spits you right out again. Is it entirely unique? Well, no, but then what is these days. However, blues, rock, Motown, soul, Gospel and punk influences have never been so well displayed on an album. The members of the band originate from Athens, Alabama, and come from a community of musicians that just play in bands through word of mouth, [although Brittany Howard, the lead singer had spotted Zac Cockrell at school, and wanted to start a band with him, namely because "he wore t-shirts with cool bands on that nobody had heard of "] this alone gives you an idea of what Alabama Shakes is all about. There is no pretension with this band, no need to 'dress to impress' the eclectic mix of members make up one of the most soulful sounds out there at the moment. Playing at a Nashville record store got them their first big break, and their explosive performance of 'You Ain’t Alone' bought them to the attention of Justin Gage, who then put it out on line telling people "it was a slice of the real."

Indeed it is, and without a doubt it is twenty two year old Brittany Howard’s immense voice that is at the forefront. People will no doubt liken it to the likes of Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin, but a voice with such depth and emotion hasn’t been heard in a very long time. Harking back to the Joplin like heart break on songs like 'Be Mine' or the battle with personal demons on 'Hold On' it is the catch in Howard’s voice when she sings lines like "bless my heart, bless my soul, I never thought I’d make it to twenty two years old," that makes even the sceptics think again. 'You Ain’t Alone' is pure blues 'baby come back to me' heart ache. While Howard may seem like the main attraction, the heavy riffs of Heath Fogg, and Zac Cockrell take the songs up another notch, and Steve Johnson’s punk influenced beats add an energy all of their own. It is also songs like 'Goin’ To The Party' which surprise you with its simplicity and its stripped down sound.

There is a song on this album for everyone, and unlike many others, there is not one 'filler' track or one song that you skip over because you aren't in the mood. For a debut album this is a stellar effort, and a piece of work that should be listened to as a whole, not just as a list of potential singles. One of my bands of 2012? Most definitely.