You gotta love a song like Hold On, the opening track of this debut album from the Alabama quartet who can only be described as southern rock, soul and garage gospel. On this song, singer and guitarist Brittany Howard and her band play as if they are just moseying their way through it, yet it bristles with such raw power.

Then there's the subtle force of staunch soul refrain Hang Loose, the throat-shredding serenade of Heartbreaker, and the bluesy groove of Be Mine. It's riveting, gritty, but also entirely agreeable stuff.

It can be rootsy (like on the escalating gospel prowl of I Found You), and at times it gives way to flat-out blistering rock'n'roll like on the throaty crash and bash finale of Rise To the Sun and last track On Your Way, which is like Kings of Leon back in their wild, brawling heyday of a few years ago.

Songs like Heartbreaker and the Boys and Girls of the title reflect 23-year-old Howard's preoccupation with love, tenderness, and heartache on the album. And it's clear from her lyrics that some of these songs may have been around for a little while, though they still stand up thanks to her unbridled openness and cough-up confessionals. And of course there is no faulting the hot-blooded playing even when they are tapping out the slow-motion tranquility of something like You Ain't Alone.


Stars: 4/5
Verdict: Nothing shaky about this southern fried debut.
Buy this album here.