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Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes. (CHAD BATKA/The New York Times)
Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes. (CHAD BATKA/The New York Times)

Music

Alabama Shakes singer covers Sixto Rodriguez tune Add to ...

Brittany Howard and Ruby Amanfu; streaming at thirdmanrecords.com

Part two of the comeback of the long-lost seventies-era troubadour Sixto Rodriguez begins.

Subject of the Oscar-winning documentary Searching for Sugar Man, the bittersweet singer-songwriter now sees one of his tunes covered by the sassy-brassy Alabama Shakes front woman Brittany Howard, with harmony help from the soulful Ruby Amanfu. It’s a swinging, scathing pop song with a thick bass-line introduction invented by the late, great Bob Babbitt (of the Funk Brothers).

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The woolly reggae breakdown with a honky-tonk piano is new; the disillusionment – “I wonder, will this hatred ever end?” – is not.

Rodriguez’s disenchantment with the record business drove him underground 40 years ago. Given the complicated nature of publishing rights, I wonder if he’ll ever see a dime from this recording.

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