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Brittany Howard - Jaime (Album Review)

Friday, 27 September 2019 Written by Helen Payne

“The record is not about her,” Brittany Howard says of her late sister, whose name adorns the front cover of her debut solo album. “It’s about me.” Jaime taught Brittany, the frontwoman of Alabama Shakes, how to write poetry and play the piano before she died as a teenager from a rare form of cancer. In life and death, Jaime was a crucial influence for the singer-songwriter.

But the record is not about Jaime, it’s about Brittany, and looking at herself and her life has required some serious alone time. Howard has stepped away from her band to honestly assess her experiences—with family, death, childhood, race, booze, God or the human species—and understand how they shaped her life and creativity.

While Alabama Shakes’ music has spanned roots, rock and indie, ‘Jaime’ is even more experimental, touching on funkadelia, neo-soul and hip hop.

Opener History Repeats is a skittish spattering of looped vocals and percussion, the calm Short and Sweet highlights Howard’s knack for elegant compositions, and closer Run To Me takes on some bold stylised synths and drum tracks.

Presence steals much of the limelight with its dynamic range of quiet harp plucks interspersed with grungy guitars, while the slinky Georgia is a childlike chant that counts petals off a daisy while bathing in a classroom crush on an older girl.

In one of several assessments of religion Howard blends hymnal organs into her tale of teenage lust, and the brilliantly soulful He Loves Me arrives at the unwavering conclusion that Howard’s God loves her anyway—even when she’s smoking blunts and drinking too much. Sampling a sermon by Reverend Terry K. Anderson, a Houston pastor, the song is relaxed and comfortable in its own skin, a state that comes with learning to accept yourself.

Howard winds the clock back to her childhood on Goathead and, after a jazz keys introduction, the racist attitudes of the American South hit hard: “Momma is white, and daddy is black, when I first got made, guess I made these folks mad.” Howard isn’t shy about these themes, and is unafraid to make her feelings known.

All these experiences have built up over the course of Howard’s life to shape a musician with an inescapable talent for melody, and a human being who dedicates music to a loved one. Sometimes her solo bow clouds the thrill of her vocal strength by hiding it under experimental, psych-fuelled tangents, but it remains charming and often unique.

Brittany Howard Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Fri September 27 2019 - PHILADELPHIA Pennsylvania - Fillmore - Philadelphia (USA)
Tue October 08 2019 - LOS ANGELES California - Ace Hotel - Los Angeles (USA)
Wed October 09 2019 - LOS ANGELES California - Ace Hotel - Los Angeles (USA)
Thu November 14 2019 - DENVER Colorado - Ogden Theatre (USA)
Fri November 15 2019 - BOULDER Colorado - Boulder Theatre (USA)
Mon November 18 2019 - SEATTLE Washington - Moore Theatre (USA)
Tue November 19 2019 - VANCOUVER British Columbia - Commodore Ballroom (Canada)
Wed November 20 2019 - PORTLAND Oregon - Roseland Theater (USA)
Fri November 22 2019 - SAN FRANCISCO California - Fillmore (USA)
Sat November 23 2019 - OAKLAND California - Fox Theater - Oakland (USA)

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