<p>&nbsp;Alabama Shakes</p>

 Alabama Shakes

Credit: AP Photo

Album Review: Is Alabama Shakes' 'Boys & Girls' worth the hype?

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Rock quartet conjures up ghosts of the greats on full-length debut

Critics have been falling all over themselves to praise Alabama Shakes for the past several months: Paste named the act its best new band of 2011, they were a must-see show at SXSW, and already have a big U.K. following.

Before the inevitable backlash begins, we suggest you grab a copy of “Boys & Girls,” the quartet’s debut album out today, April 10 (it follows last fall's 4-song EP) and find out what all the fuss is about.

The album’s rush of music —11 songs delivered in around 38 minutes —swirls around lead singer Brittany Howard’s bluesy, nuanced vocals. When she sings “Bless my heart/bless my soul/didn’t think I’d make it to 22 years old,” in opening track “Hold On,” instead of sounding pretentious and overly precious, she sounds like an old soul for whom a real world  22 is her weary heart’s equivalent of  92. On “You Ain’t Alone” she conjures up Otis Redding’s ghost in a shivering, memorable performance.

Howard is the primary reason tastemakers have fallen all over themselves to praise this group from Athens, Ala. (as opposed to that other southern musical hotbed of yore, Athens, Ga.), but not the only one: the band’s appeal is that Alabama Shakes are so clearly the antidote to what is dominating pop music these days. There are no plastic princesses in pink or blue hair here (though The Shakes’ music is so friendly, they’d probably be welcome to grab a tambourine and join in). Plus, “B&G’s” rootsy naturalism sounds as if it were created in a vacuum, not only without any concessions to current radio trends, but without even any knowledge of them.

Instead, ghosts of the aforementioned Redding, Solomon Burke, Janis Joplin and even Amy Winehouse haunt their music and Howard’s vocal style.  Just listen to the soulful “I Found You” or, more significantly, “Rise To the Sun” and try not to imagine Winehouse singing the organ-drenched tunes.

Without sounding deliberately retro or from a specific era, Alabama Shakes’ big drums, echo-y guitars and striking keyboards recalls a time when pre-recorded loops were nonexistent and when synthesizers weren’t many producers’ instrument of choice.

In that way, Alabama Shakes—which also includes guitarist Heath Fogg, bassist Zac Cockrell and drummer Steve Johnson— are more akin to Jack White and the White Stripes than any other current outfit (in fact, White released a live 7”  from the band on his Third Man Records).  They share his same often ramshackle, often shambolic sound that sounds unschooled, but then closer listens reveal that it is deliberate in its primitiveness. In fact, the music grows more precise as the record rolls on, as keys, drums and guitars all slyly start to move in the same direction instead of seemingly battling each other as they do on some of the early tracks.  Listen to the spooky, delicate “Goin’ To The Party” and how the guitar and drum dance around each other.

While it’s clear the best way to see Alabama Shakes is live—they will be opening for Jack White in May—”Boys & Girls” is a very fair representation of what to expect. Alabama Shakes’ music may be too looselimbed and raw for folks who like their music with a little more spit and polish, but fans of acts like Jack White and the Black Keys will eat this stuff up with a spoon.

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<p>Bonnie Raitt</p>
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Bonnie Raitt

Credit: Chris Pizzello/AP

Interview: Bonnie Raitt talks new album, 'Slipstream' and her biggest fan, Dave Grohl

Adele, Kelly Clarkson and Bon Iver have all shown Raitt love lately

Adele, Bon Iver, Kelly Clarkson and several “American Idol” contestants have all shown their love for Bonnie Raitt by covering songs the singer/guitarist made famous lately. But no one has expressed his or her devotion quite as ardently as The Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl.

At the MusiCares charity dinner this February, the rocker bolted from an interview on the red carpet to introduce himself to Raitt, who was on his “bucket list.”

“I think he was surprised to hear I liked him as I was surprised to hear [he] liked me,” Raitt says with a laugh. “I was just very pleasantly surprised” to hear he was a fan. Currently, the pair have no plans to work together, but Raitt adds, “I’ll have to put that in my hat of things to go down the line because I was thrilled” Grohl approached her.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Adam Lambert</p>

Adam Lambert

Adam Lambert and Queen schedule four summer dates

Sonisphere is still off, but Kiev and London shows now on

Even though Adam Lambert’s July 7 concert with Queen at Sonisphere was cancelled, he will play the part of the band’s lead singer for at least four shows in 2012.

Queen’s Roger Taylor says Lambert will play with the band, which also includes original member Brian May,  on June 30 in Kiev,  another Kiev show where Queen and Elton John will share the bill, and two July shows at the Hammersmith Apollo in London in July.  Taylor told Billboard.com that the London shows will provide an “alternative...for some of the people who had bought tickets” to Sonisphere.

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<p>John Mayer</p>

John Mayer

Listen: John Mayer takes on Lana del Rey's 'Video Games'

Lonely guitar version highlights the song's melancholy roots

John Mayer may be back on vocal rest, but his guitar is speaking just fine for him.  Listen below as he delicately weaves in and out of an instrumental version of Lana Del Rey’s “Video Games.”

It’s a gorgeous, haunting, stripped down version on an electric guitar.  As Idolator suggests, we completely agree that it sounds like something out of a Western, with the slight echo and feeling of loneliness. You can almost imagine a tumbleweed rolling by.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Fiona Apple</p>

Fiona Apple

Credit: AP Photo

Fiona Apple sets summer tour dates in support of 'The Idler Wheel...'

Outing starts in Ithaca, N.Y.

Fiona Apple kicks off her summer headlining tour on June 19, the same date that her first album in seven years comes out, the impossibly long-winded “The Idler Wheel is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do.”

The tour starts at the State Theater in Ithaca, N.Y. on June 19 and concludes July 29 at the Hollywood Palladium.

Apple performed three songs from the album, including first single, “Every Single Night,” on her Spring tour, including during her SXSW show.

 

6/19     Ithaca, NY                   State Theatre                                     4/20 10 AM
6/20     Baltimore, MD            Lyric Opera House                               4/20, 10 AM
6/22     Mashantucket, CT       MGM Grand Theater at Foxwoods       4/20, 10 AM
6/23     Holyoke, MA               Mountain Park                                     4/20, 10 AM
6/24     New York, NY            Randall's Island                                     on sale now
6/26     Washington, DC          Warner Theatre                                   4/13, 10 AM
6/27     Upper Darby, PA         Tower Theatre                                     4/13, 10 AM
6/29     Danbury, CT                Ives Concert Park                                4/20, 10 AM
6/30     Boston, MA                 Citi Performing Arts Center                 4/14, 10 AM
7/1       Portland, ME               State Theatre                                       4/20, 10 AM
7/3       Montreal, QC               Olympia Theatre                                 4/21, 12 PM
7/4       Toronto, ON               The Sound Academy                            4/20, 10 AM
7/6       Cleveland Hts., OH      Cain Park                                             4/21, 10 AM
7/7       Detroit, MI                  The Fillmore Detroit                           4/27, 10 AM
7/10     Chicago, IL                  Chicago Theatre                                  4/21, 10 AM
7/11     Indianapolis, IN            Murat Theatre                                     4/20, 10 AM
7/13     Nashville, TN              Ryman Auditorium                               4/21, 10 AM
7/14     St. Louis, MO               Peabody Opera House                          4/20, 10 AM
7/16     Minneapolis, MN         Orpheum Theatre                                4/14, 12 PM
7/17     Kansas City, MO          The Midland by AMC                          4/20, 10 AM
7/20     Denver, CO                  Paramount Theatre                              4/20, 10 AM
7/21     Salt Lake City, UT       Kingsbury Hall - University of Utah     4/21, 10 AM
7/24     Vancouver, BC             Orpheum                                              4/20, 10 AM
7/25     Seattle, WA                 Paramount Theatre                              4/20, 10 AM
7/26     Portland, OR                Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall              4/20, 10 AM
7/28     Oakland, CA                Fox Theater                                         4/15, 10 AM
7/29     Hollywood, CA             Hollywood Palladium                          4/27, 10 AM

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<p>Madonna</p>
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Madonna

Credit: Chris Pizzello/AP

Music Power Rankings: Madonna tops Justin Bieber

Miranda Lambert, One Direction and Bob Dylan make the list

1) Madonna: She lands her eighth No. 1 album with “MDNA.” FNTSTC.

2) Justin Bieber:
Believers take “Boyfriend” to a No. 2 debut on the Billboard Hot 100 as the song breaks the record for first week airplay on Billboard’s Mainstream Top 40 chart. His fans are finally tall enough to reach the radio dial.

3) Lionel Richie: “Tuskegee” lands the ex-Commodore his highest debut on the Billboard 200 in 26 years. That’s one and a half Justin Bieber lifetimes.

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<p>&nbsp;Nicki Minaj</p>
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 Nicki Minaj

Credit: John Minchillo/AP

Nicki Minaj's 'Roman Reloaded' shoots straight for the top of the Billboard 200

How far does Madonna's 'MDNA' fall on next week's album chart?

The rotation at the top of the Billboard 200 continues as Nicki Minaj prepares to assume the top spot next week with “Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded.” That will make six different titles at No. 1 in the past six weeks.

Minaj’s sophomore set looks good for sales of up to 235,000, which will lead it to handily come in above Adele’s “21,” which will bounce back up to No. 2 with sales of up to 165,000, according to Hits Daily Double. Three other titles look good to bow in the top 10: Rascal Flatts’ “Changed” will move up to 120,000 copies for No. 3, while gospel artist Marvin Sapp’s “I Win” will likely come in at No. 7 with up to 50,000 sold.

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<p>Rihanna</p>
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Rihanna

Credit: Joel Ryan/AP

Watch: Drake and Rihanna try to thaw their feelings in 'Take Care' video

Frozen hearts can sometimes learn to love again

Talk about an ice age. Drake and Rihanna’s clip for “Take Care” is visit to the frozen tundra of your heart.

The two characters want to take care of each other, but are too scared to let themselves be  vulnerable.  In the strikingly shot, primarily black and white clip, a minimalist aesthetic that matches the starkness of the loneliness both Drake and Rihanna feel perfectly matches the tone.  There is a buffalo, bird and fish thrown in for good measure, as well as beautiful nature footage of a snow-covered landscape.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>&nbsp;Willie Nelson</p>

 Willie Nelson

Credit: AP Photo

Listen: Willie Nelson covers Pearl Jam's 'Just Breathe'

HitFix
B
Readers
A+
How does it compare to his version of Coldplay's 'The Scientist?'

Willie Nelson can seldom do wrong in our book. Today, he released his cover of Pearl Jam’s “Just Breathe,” which is featured on his May 15 album, “Heroes” (listen here, via Rolling Stone).  We already heard his interpretation of Coldplay’s “The Scientist” on a Chipotle commercial during the Super Bowl.

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<p>&nbsp;Nicki Minaj</p>

 Nicki Minaj

Watch: Nicki Minaj sleepwalks through 'Starships' performance on 'Today'

She debuts new song, 'Right By Your Side'

It is very clear that Nicki Minaj is not a morning person. Just watch this tremendously lethargic lip-synching performance of her top 10 hit “Starships” on this morning’s “Today” show. She is totally phoning it in. Quite honestly, it’s almost as bad as Britney Spears’ horrible MTV Video Music Awards performance from a few years ago and the outfit is nearly as unflattering.

“Is that too much for early in the morning, you guys?,” she asks as she moves around with the clunky moves of a really rusty aerobics instructor.  The answer is a resounding yes, for Minaj, if no one else.

[More after the jump...]

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