Alabama Shakes lead vocalist and guitarist Brittany Howard released her debut solo album “Jaime” on Sept. 20, putting her Southern blues-rock band on hold to pursue a solo career. Her solo release, of which the album is named after, is in memory of Howard’s older sister who passed away from cancer when Howard was 8-years-old.
Howard described her sister Jaime as a thinker who taught her everything she knows. Jaime was and still serves as a big influence on Howard’s life and creativity.
“But the record is not about her,” Howard stated during a tour. “It’s about me.”
The album is scattered, just as Howard intended it to be.
“Jaime” doesn’t fit into anyone genre stereotype. The album pushes musical boundaries bounding from R&B to rock to vastly experimental tracks with no transitions between. “Jaime” jumps from soft electric guitar filled rock tracks accompanied by Howard’s high-pitched screeches to soulful ballads highlighting Howard’s quintessential crystal-clear vocals.
The track “Short and Sweet” presents Howard in a different light from the rest of the album. Stripped down to just her and a guitar, Howard discusses the struggles of time and love. The song is presented as a lullaby and exhibits her talent through simplicity.
The track that follows titled “13th Century Metal,” alters the mood of the record drastically. The slow tempo transforms into a fast-paced futuristic synthesizer loop that acts as an ominous siren. Howard proceeds to perform a speech over the hectic song, preaching unity through the repeated phrase “we are all brothers and sisters.”
While Howard uses “Jaime” as a vehicle for experimentation and expression, she also stays true to her southern roots.
The track “Baby” is full of jazz undertones with a groovy bassline and sporadic piano fingering. Howard’s voice shifts back to her powerful vocals in her “Sound and Color” days with Alabama Shakes, albeit at a much slower pace. The encased lyrics toy at the idea of love defining terms. Howard expresses her confusion stating, “I tried to be everything you ever want,” while her lover continued to not be there for her. She poses the question, “how could you call me baby?”
“Jaime” has its fair share of talk about love throughout, but also delves into the discussion of race.
Howard grew up in the South as a biracial child and her album does not shy away from the discrimination she endured. The track “Goat Head” discusses racist stereotypes and ultimately provides a story of a hateful act towards her parents; slashing her dad’s tires and putting a goat head in the back.
“Jaime” is a diverse project both in instrumentation and concept. Howard displays the complexities of her life on a platform for all to listen to. Through her debut, Howard has paved a solo identity as an artist by means of creativity and vulnerability.
Brittany Howard will be coming to Denver’s Ogden Theatre in Denver on Nov. 14. Tickets are available here.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Benny Titelbaum at email@example.com