You’ve GOT to Hear This: “Hold On”

Hold On by Alabama Shakes

With the laid back drums establishing a comfortable pocket, the rest of the band kicks in with one of the most infectious intros I have heard in a long time. The bass sits firmly in the front pocket with the downbeat and the rhythm guitar sparsely fills in the spaces between. Then there is the lead guitar riff with its Stax-like simplicity which adds a beauty and complexity that forces you to wonder what could possibly top this. I was not prepared for the gritty soulfulness that vocalist Brittany Howard would fire up on the rest of this scorching track. With a conviction unheard in ages, she pleads with the listener as much as she pleads with herself. You believe that she is lost in the confusion she is singing about. Yet, you find faith with her impatience as the song develops lyrically. Meanwhile, the band has been laying down one of the purest grooves with an energy that builds as the song chugs forward.

When the chorus arrives, Brittany sustains the notes and is actually cleverly Holding On. Underneath her, guitarist Heath Fogg picks away furiously to add forward motion to the layout. As the song develops, harmonies and piano smattering fill out the arrangement. Towards the end of the song, Brittany opens up her range and plays off the energy that the band is supplying. The way Alabama Shakes can lead to a musical climax and then dropout to allow the stunning outro vocals to shine in all of their dynamic glory is astounding. It is a rare skill for a band to have to write a  song that is so enveloping as it is charming and that is why… You’ve GOT to hear this!

Yaz Atout

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