Great music can be a challenge to find these days.

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Alabama Shakes - Gimme All Your Love

Alabama Shakes - Gimme All Your Love

- Gimme All Your Love -

Gimme All Your Love is a modern lesson in the effective use of dynamics, and god do we need it in 2016! If you enjoy my arrangement and recording dissections, you're in for a thorough one because there is just so much to marvel at in this recording. If you find them to be boring, obvious, and longwinded, I completely understand and encourage you to skip down to the section about the band.

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Look at you hanging in there for the breakdown! What a pal!

Alright, so Brittany Howard (singer, guitarist) goes from sultry and intimate verses to belted crooning choruses and if your spine doesn't tingle at that you should consult a therapist. That woman's voice SHOULD make you cry. She's going to be remembered as one of those historic vocalists like Billie Holiday, Janis Joplin, or Aretha Franklin and I think everyone knows it. Paul McCartney sure does! To top it off she's a monster on guitar.

  Brittany Howard and Paul McCartney performing at Lollapalooza in 2015

Brittany Howard and Paul McCartney performing at Lollapalooza in 2015

Howard's guitar part in Gimme All Your Love is so damn sexy with those tight little staccato-picked slides that wrap up the choruses. She rocks the dynamics on guitar the same way she does with her voice, going from sweet serenading riffs to crunchy strummed choruses.

Steve Johnson's (drummer) riveted ride cymbal that hits on the end of the choruses so beautifully transitions that explosive section into the mellow and delicate verses. If you read my post about Nothing Good Ever Happens at the God Damn Thirsty Crow, you'd know that that wash of cymbal sustain that you get with a riveted ride is one of my favorite sounds that any instrument can make.

  Riveted cymbals have holes drilled around the outer edge where metal rivets loosely sit. When hit, the vibration causes the small metal rivets to dance about in their holes for as long as the cymbal sustains creating a "sizzling" effect.

Riveted cymbals have holes drilled around the outer edge where metal rivets loosely sit. When hit, the vibration causes the small metal rivets to dance about in their holes for as long as the cymbal sustains creating a "sizzling" effect.

On organ and Rhodes Piano is Ben Tanner, and those parts are damn tasty. That organ with the rotating horn vibrato is the perfect bed throughout this piece. Because the simulations are so authentic sounding these days, it's hard to tell if they used an actual Leslie cabinet for vibrato or just a digital version of it. If it is the later it certainly doesn't detract because the organ tone is crisp yet girthy and everything that an organ should be. At times he uses it subtly like in the ramp up to the jam section, and other times its right in your face like in the choruses.

  A Leslie cabinet drives two speakers with rotors that create a vibrato effect. The high frequency speaker plays through a rotating horn, while the low one plays through a drum rotor. Together you get that signature Leslie vibrato.

A Leslie cabinet drives two speakers with rotors that create a vibrato effect. The high frequency speaker plays through a rotating horn, while the low one plays through a drum rotor. Together you get that signature Leslie vibrato.

  Here's the real thang!

Here's the real thang!

The Rhodes Piano on the other hand delicately introduces each line of the verses with an arpeggiated triad. It's this beautiful warm bell-like timbre that sustains under the lyrics, yet leaves the section feeling vast and open with plenty of room for Brittany's voice to be the focus.

On bass is Zac Cockrell, and holy hell does he ace this track. On the verses he sustains deep and round whole notes with playful little turnarounds, and occasionally he lets out this little bass chord like at 1:31. It's so simple but it makes me grimace with pleasure every time. He propels the track forward in the choruses and jam section with a tasty groove. I hope that Cockrell becomes the sort of bass hero that the next generation of players looks up to because he is everything a bass player should be.

  Zac Cockrell on bass

Zac Cockrell on bass

Recorded at Sound Emporium Studios in Nashville, TN, Gimme All Your Love bleeds old-school recording techniques, but with the sheen of modern polish. An article in Sound on Sound details a lot about the recording process of the album Sound and Color, and if you're a nerd for this kind of stuff like I am you'll be blown away by some of the creative recording techniques producer Blake Mills and engineer Shawn Everett used on this one. 

All of the tracks on the record were recorded with live full band takes, but they certainly had some fun with production and overdubs after the fact. I say that because there are some great little bits of ear candy that I'm sure weren't done live. One that sticks out to me is the delayed chuckle at 1:04 that follows the line "Gimme all you got baby". It sounds like it may have been part of the performance, but Mills and Everett piped it through delay and washed it out in reverb, and it stands as a distinct moment of interest in the song. 

In general the space in this recording is really something to behold. Checking out the studio, I would imagine a lot of it is just natural room tone, but there are definitely some plate reverbs in play and possibly even a separate chamber reverb to get those sprawling sustained sounds.

  Alabama Shakes recording Sound and Color at Sound Emporium Studios

Alabama Shakes recording Sound and Color at Sound Emporium Studios

Detailing all of these things about the recording of Gimme All Your Love but not sharing footage from a live performance of it would be a real injustice, so I'll wrap this up by leaving you with this:

 

-Alabama Shakes-

Originally from Athens, Alabama, Alabama Shakes got their start jamming at Brittany Howard's great-grandparents house a few times a week. "One reason we started playing music together was that there wasn't much else to do." Brittany told The New York Times in an in-depth article about the band. The piece goes on to speculate that if it weren't for all of the small town factors, the band may never have formed, and having lived in both one-horse-towns (or towns with more horses than people) and New York City, capital of the world, I totally get that.  

The first Alabama Shakes record, Boys & Girls, was recorded at The Bomb Shelter in 2011 with Andrija Tokic, and was funded by the band. Their song You Ain't Alone was featured on the LA music blog Aquarium Drunkard, which caught the attention of a slew of labels and artist managers. Before long the band signed to ATO Records and released Boys & Girls in 2012 with their new label. 

Following the release, Alabama Shakes toured with the Drive-By Truckers and Jack White and played Sasquatch, Bonaroo, and Lallapalooza. In 2013 they were nominated for a Grammy for Best New Artist. 

Sound and Color is the band's sophomore album and was released in April of 2015. It was received with universal acclaim as it deserved to be, because damn that's a solid record! It won 3 Grammys this year at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards along with a dozen or so other accolades. If you haven't spent time with the whole record yet, fix that! Sound and Color will be one of those album purchases you make that your grandkids will fight over when you're gone. 

If you dig this tune check out:

Jack White, Dr. Dog, Allen Stone, The Head and the Heart, Leon Bridges, Gary Clark Jr., and Shakey Graves

(all links go to youtube videos that stand as the best representation of the artist so you don't have to go hunting for music that doesn't suck)

  Alabama Shakes

Alabama Shakes

Leon Bridges - Better Man

Leon Bridges - Better Man

Travis Mendes - 10 Years

Travis Mendes - 10 Years