Hold On - Alabama Shakes

from the album Boys & Girls (2012)

Great tone is one of the qualities that I value most in a song. Achieving it requires technique, a trained ear, and quality equipment.  Whenever I see live music, I always check out the gear the band is using.  This usually gives me a good feel for the sound they are looking to achieve and an idea for how serious they are about tone.

Last Saturday night, I saw Alabama Shakes at the Masquerade Music Park in Atlanta.  When I saw their equipment sitting on stage ahead of the set, I immediately knew that this band either 1) had a great appreciation for tone, or 2) had a really rich sugar daddy buying their gear.  Thankfully, it was the former.

The first thing to catch my eye was the Gretsch drum kit.  Gretsch was the preferred brand for drumming legends like Chick Webb, Elvin Jones, and Charlie Watts.  Next was the leslie speaker spinning behind the keyboards reminding me of Booker T. Jones or Steve Winwood on A Whiter Shade Of Pale.  The bass guitar was a Fender Precision with an Ampeg head and speaker.   And finally were an assortment beautiful hollow-bodied guitars gleaming under the stage lights.  At one point during the show, Brittany Howard broke a string and was handed a Gibson SG.  I fancied she might go Angus on us.

Two things that really stood out from their performance were the rhythm section and Brittany Howard. Drummer Steve Johnson and Bassist Zac Cockrell laid down one fine beat & groove after another, staying completely locked together, giving buoyancy to both the rest of the band and the audience.  From this foundation, everything stemmed.

Brittany Howard is the real deal.  Great frontmen (and women) are born, not made, and she has that gift.  The quality of her vocals, her commitment to delivering the goods on each song, and her showmanship really left an impression on me.

Hold On is the single from their debut album.  The beat, the guitar riff, and the vocals all resonate with me.  A friend of mine, hearing Alabama Shakes for the first time, summed it up best with two words ... "Holy Crap." I certainly agree.

Click Here to see a live version from the actual concert.  A fun note is that my friends and I are definitely in this video.  We were about eight rows back from the dead center of the stage.  Hard to pick us out though.  Click Here for a video from the same concert shot from the side of the stage (better audio).

Click Here for the official video.


  1. Your friend is definitely a gifted linguist...Are you the guy about 8 rows back with the big head?

    Seriously----I am in looove with this chick---and I am not even totally sure what I mean by that-- I guess it goes along with what I tell my kids, that if I ever got knocked in the head and could suddenly sing, I would sing like Patty Smyth or Anne Wilson, you know, really sing, (as in, the opposite of the Dolores O'Riordan types). Now it is definitely Brittany Howard. Thank you, Gigolo, for the exposure to this awesome, groovy band. I was mesmerized by beat one of the bass player and drummer...hence, the holy crap-ness.

    And if you are ever in need of anymore descriptive expletives, let me know--I have a *%#$-ing &%*#-load.

  2. The 40 Watt Gigolo does not have a big head!

  3. Brittany is the epitome of a Band Leader. I've seen this band live twice. Once as headliners at Kilkenny Rhythm and Roots Festival in Ireland and last weekend in Atlanta. Both times I was immediately struck by her seamless command of the stage. She's also adept at measuring the vibe and energy of the crowd and communicates it back to the band members with almost no visible signs. Doing all of this whilst cranking out some of the most soulful rock sounds I've heard in ages. She was either born with a gift of not just her voice or they spend a great number of hours honing their craft. Regardless the result is stunning.


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