Updated: Mar 4, 2021
Chances are, you’ve heard of the Alabama Shakes. The southern rock, four-time grammy winning band that blew the world away with their 2015 album, Sound and Color. After touring, what’s next for an internationally recognized group? Do it all over again, right? Well that’s where front-woman, singer, guitarist and songwriter, Brittany Howard disagreed. While she did not want to become complacent, she decided to take a hiatus from the band and explore her own musical endeavor.
While Howard had dabbled in other side projects, creating a secret Twitter (@candlegazing) for rating bathtubs she finds on tour, and musical projects, Thunderbitch and Bermuda Triangle, this was different. She rented a home in Topanga Canyon, California just to create. By the end, she came up with the album Jaime, released on September 20, 2019. The album is affectionately titled, Jaime, for Brittany Howard’s late sister who passed away when she was only 13 from a rare form of eye cancer. Howard claims that Jaime taught her everything she knows about being creative and believes her sister was alongside her creating this album as a duel effort.
“History Repeats,” is the first track off the album, which begins with a twenty second drum build up, before slipping in beautifully bluesy guitar riffs. Of course, once the warmth of Howard’s vocals enter, you know you’re in for a groovy ride. The next track, “He Loves Me,” speaks of her relationship with religion, while incorporating verses of a sermon from YouTube by Pastor Terry K. Anderson. The way Howard sings about how she knows God still loves her, even when she’s drinking and smoking weed, is a striking message that is perfectly paralleled to the vocal layers in the song that create a depth, emulating a church’s choir. While Brittany Howard has been candid about her herb smoking, the song “Stay High,” goes a little deeper, about enjoying where you are and who you’re with, moving forward and not looking back. The use of, what sounds like a toy-xylophone, is a quirky choice that works alongside Howard’s soul-flavored vocals, that inch toward you like waves crashing at the shore. And in case you weren’t already interested, Terry Crews stars in the music video, yes, Terry Crews. “Goat Head,” is probably the darkest track on the album, and she spoke about it on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. The track recounts a true story about her interracial parents being unaccepted in their community, and her father’s car tires getting slashed, and finding a goat head in the back, because of the color of his skin. The repeated loops in the track are cyclical, which could be seen as a message to our current society; as much as we believe we’re past racism, the cycle repeats itself and proves that it is still as present as ever.
LONG STORY SHORT: Brittany Howard’s voice is full-bodied, intoxicating, inviting, and simply unmatched. Her guitar riffs are melodic and spellbinding. This album, while being genre fluid, is cohesive in its articulate story-telling. Hop in a bath, and cuddle up with Jaime. It’s what Brittany would recommend.