Fans who were disappointed in the more esoteric twists and turns Alabama Shakes’ latest album, Sound & Color, took will be more than a little pleased to tune in to frontwoman Brittany Howard’s surprise self-release under the moniker Thunderbitch.
Dropped without any preamble on September 1, the album’s 10 tracks showcase Howard unleashing her best. Her full-throttle vocals careen and proselytize; she cries out like a woman that’s been kept down too long and the result is a glorious romp of grinding rock.
There’s no game here, either. Throughout the album, Howard’s lyrics carry a raw honesty.
“I want to grow up to wear a leather jacket/That will hold my soul in/I’m never going to take it off,” she sings in the opener “Leather Jacket.” The simplicity of this desire, replete with a sneer, recalls Joan Jett’s brazen, yet equally plaintive statement, “I love rock n’ roll” — a sentiment Howard echoes later on in “I Just Wanna Rock n Roll.”
What Howard successfully delivers is that she’s able to back up the imagery of a cool rock chick who has a don’t-mess-with-me demeanor with an emotional plea of who we want to be. I’ve got a massive girl crush, that’s for sure.
Elsewhere, a sly nod to Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” surfaces in “Very Best Friend” and the band rips through “Closer” sounding like Deliverance band camp pickers on ecstasy. (The band is comprised of players calling themselves Matt Man, B Bone, ThunderMitch, Char Man and A Man — fronted, of course, by Thunderbitch.)
If you’re wondering why Howard picked up a side project, it might not be a stretch to place blame on the spotlight the Alabama Shakes have been under since their debut Boys & Girls was released. Just take a listen to Howard on the closing “Heavenly Feeling,” as she drops to a weary sigh and sings, “When people love you, thank you for nothing.”
Listen to Alabama Shakes on Rhapsody here.