Music Review: Brittany Howard Releases Her Debut Solo Album, 'Jaime'

Sep 23, 2019
Originally published on September 25, 2019 11:27 am
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The frontwoman of Alabama Shakes, Brittany Howard, has just released her first solo album.

(SOUNDBITE OF BRITTANY HOWARD SONG, "HISTORY REPEATS")

SHAPIRO: It's called "Jaime" in honor of her sister, who died as a teenager after struggling with cancer. Howard says she wrote this record as a process of healing. In a statement to the media, she said, I suppose all I want is to help others feel a bit better about being. Tom Moon has our review of "Jaime."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "13TH CENTURY METAL")

BRITTANY HOWARD: I promise to think before I speak, to be wary of who I give my energy to because it is needed for a greater cause, greater than my own pride. And that cause is to spread the enlightenment of love.

TOM MOON, BYLINE: Behold Brittany Howard, armed with a megaphone. She's getting her preacher on, pledging to spread love, affirming some of her core values - kindness, realness, brotherhood.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "13TH CENTURY METAL")

HOWARD: I repeat, we are all brothers and sisters. I repeat, we are all brothers and sisters. I repeat, we are all brothers and sisters. We are all...

MOON: It's more street sermon than mission statement, propelled by a pressurized, churning rhythm from drummer Nate Smith. As the energy climbs, Howard sends out a tense but beautifully harmonized call to action.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "13TH CENTURY METAL")

HOWARD: Wherever you have been and wherever you will go, give it to love. Just do the best you can. Give it to love. To be kind - give it to love - to your fellow man - give it to love.

MOON: That's just one of the exciting moments on Brittany Howard's first solo album. Every track has an intense melody that becomes more addictive as Howard sings. Her gritty, textured voice is a gravitational force all its own. And watch out when she veers away from the melodies into one of these stupendous, free-floating improvisations.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STAY HIGH")

HOWARD: (Singing) 'Cause where I come from, everybody frowns and walks around with that ugly thing on their face. And where I come from, we work hard and grind and hustle all day. Yes, we do.

MOON: Howard makes songs that seem at once radically new and instantly familiar. They're like smash hits from a parallel galaxy where pop and soul and hard rock and R&B don't just coexist; they synergize into something fresh and profound. Howard uses these platforms to explore personal questions of sexual identity and the lingering impact of racially motivated hate crimes she experienced as a child.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GOAT HEAD")

HOWARD: (Singing) 'Cause Mama is white, and Daddy is black. When I first got made, guess I made these folks mad. See, I know my colors, see. But what I want to know is, who slashed my dad's tires and put a goat head in the back? I guess I wasn't supposed to know that.

MOON: It doesn't take Brittany Howard too many words to share what she's been through and what she's learned. Even when it gets deep, the atmosphere of this extraordinary record remains loose, traveling between extremes of pain and joy, truth-telling and escape at whiplash-inducing speed.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HE LOVES ME")

HOWARD: (Singing) I know he still loves me when...

SHAPIRO: The first solo album from Brittany Howard is called "Jaime." Our reviewer is Tom Moon.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HE LOVES ME")

HOWARD: (Singing) He loves me then, yeah. He loves me when I do what I want. He loves me. He doesn't judge me. Yes, he loves me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.