Every now and again you throw the CD in, or needle the wax, or, hell, click on something that transports you from that very space in which you sit. Heath Green and company do this in spades on their Alive Natural Sound self-titled debut, Heath Green and the Makeshifters. Like the Black Crowes before ego, money, and a heavy Vox trip, Green channels Redding, Cocker, maybe a splash of Chris Robinson’s bluesy soul, and copious amounts of Alabama-bred rockin’ and rollin’.
Birmingham has spawned many a band with a scene rich in talent and wanderlust. Feeding off years of sensationalized civil unrest and a stately history of red-dusted musical standouts, it was only a matter of time before Green found his outlet for a solo record, a crack supporting cast, and a plainly personal batch of endlessly bouncing, riff-heavy, screaming rock ‘n’ soul.
After stints in a few Birmingham mainstays like the Back Row Baptists and Fishergreen, Green had an ominous hankering for a solo record. Enter drummer Jason Lucia and the impervious shredding of Through the Sparks’ Jody Nelson and Greg Slamen—a veritable ‘A-team’ of local and longtime buddies with a fresh notebook of new songs and boogie riffs for days.
From the sheer magnitude of opening jam “Out to the City” and its wall-bouncing shuffle, it’s plain to see the direction we’re taking: grease and guitars, hoots and hollers, sweaty and sanctified… Rejoice! “Ain’t Got God” takes on a gospel form still steeped in noise but heavier-handed in message then delivery. Y’all take heed: the man speaks the truth, and his cohorts play it.
The beauty of this record is in the variations, showing rock prowess but never falling blind on taking it down to nary a slow two-step. Tracks like “I’m a Fool” and “Ain’t It a Shame” are gems. The only song I’m not in love with is closer “Sad Eyed Friend”, and even there the guitar and harp work are audaciously perfect together. It’s the chorus that loses me in a weird way, but that’s not even a negative considering how much everything else smokes.
Heath Green and the Makeshifters aren’t reinventing the wheel. That’s simply not the point. It’s not always about what sounds “new”. If you can make music like this, influenced by the artists and sounds of your geographic region, there’s no need to make anything anew. The pieces are scattered in various locations, and these boys pick them up and build something for themselves. We’re just lucky enough to listen in.
Raw rock ‘n’ soul is back in the Magic City, and all the better for it. God Bless Alabama, its clay, or whatever the hell else it may be that incites these grooves. As long as there’s music to be cut into vinyl from the Deep South, my ears will be there to listen. So should yours.
Originally published at PopMatters 4/4/17