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Alabama Shakes: Boys & Girls

Homage is where the heart is.

Fêted by everyone from Jack White to their most obvious antecedents The Drive-By Truckers, the band from the home of Muscle Shoals certainly have all the right-sounding, raw roots ingredients.

The formidable larynx of Brittany Howard carries the soul-storming drive of primetime Tina Turner with the cauterising melodramatics of Janis Joplin; around her is an outfit well versed in Stax and Creedence riffs, slow burn and the slamdown.

There is a snag, however – as retro rebuilders go Britanny and co lack the essential compositional might that has always defined bluesy-inspired greats – from Bob Dylan to Amy Winehouse and from John Fogerty to the aforementioned Jack White.

Impressive-sounding? Certainly, but it will take deeper, more memorable material for them to advance, rather than merely paying homage to the traditions they draw on.

Late NME, Daily Mirror and Classic Rock writer Gavin Martin started writing about music in 1977 when he published his hand-written fanzine Alternative Ulster in Belfast. He moved to London in 1980 to become the NME’s Media Editor and features writer, where he interviewed the Sex Pistols, Joe Strummer, Pete Townshend, U2, Bruce Springsteen, Ian Dury, Killing Joke, Neil Young, REM, Sting, Marvin Gaye, Leonard Cohen, Nina Simone, James Brown, Willie Nelson, Willie Dixon, Madonna and a host of others. He was also published in The Times, Guardian, Independent, Loaded, GQ and Uncut, he had pieces on Michael Jackson, Van Morrison and Frank Sinatra featured in The Faber Book Of Pop and Rock ’N’ Roll Is Here To Stay, and was the Daily Mirror’s regular music critic from 2001. He died in 2022.