Alabama Shakes delivered a crushingly electric set at the rustic-chic Loveless Barn outside of Nashville, behind the famous Loveless Cafe. Beneath white lights strung from the rafters, the crowd of 500 cheered each song as the band delivered a thrillingly uninhibited show which will air as part of the ninth season of public television’s acclaimed series Live from the Artists Den. The six-piece band dashed through blistering rockabilly boogies, eruptive country-soul ballads, and plenty else from both their 2012 debut album, Boys & Girls, and the collection of new material earmarked for a much anticipated follow-up. Front woman Brittany Howard testified to the deeply felt truths of the songs with ferocious flamboyance, and her bandmates were with her all the way—gutsy, dynamic, and altogether riveting.
The Alabama Shakes are one of the most explosive rock bands to emerge in the last five years, buoyed by the irrepressible talents of singer/guitarist Brittany Howard, bassist Zac Cockrell, drummer Steve Johnson, and guitarist Heath Fogg. The group formed in 2009 in Athens, Alabama when Howard and Cockrell began meeting after high school to write songs. Johnson and Fogg joined soon afterward, and together the foursome released an eponymous EP in 2011. The band’s blend of fiery blues-rock and Southern soul was an immediate critical success: The New York Times compared Howard to Janis Joplin, MTV placed the group on its list of “bands to watch,” and NPR named the Alabama Shakes one of the best bands of the year. In 2012, the band released its full-length debut album, Boys & Girls, for which the band received three 2013 Grammy nominations, including Best New Artist. Alabama Shakes’ sophomore album, Sound & Color debuted at Number One on the Billboard 200 in April 2015, and in December was nominated for four Grammy awards including Album of the Year.
Nashville landmark the Loveless Café was founded in 1951 when Lon and Annie Loveless began serving fried chicken and biscuits from the front door of their home to hungry travelers passing by on historic US Highway 100. Located just off the Natchez Trace Parkway, one of the oldest roads in America, the little white structure began as a popular dance spot in the Forties, thanks to its large hardwood floor, before becoming an iconic tourist destination and expanding into the renamed Loveless Motel and Café. In 2009, the Loveless Barn was constructed behind the cafe to further the café’s commitment to Nashville by creating a new space for live music and other events – all while continuing the Loveless family’s 60-year tradition of offering real Southern hospitality, complete with Annie Loveless’ original biscuit recipe, to families from across the globe.
Photography courtesy of Jon-Paul Bruno