Brittany Howard: Jaime (ATO) | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Saturday, October 19th, 2019  

Brittany Howard

Jaime

ATO

Sep 23, 2019 Web Exclusive
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In these confounding times just learning to love yourself—especially if you're black, gay, and from Alabama—can be it's own act of resistance. Alabama Shakes' frontwoman Brittany Howard puts her Grammy-winning band on hiatus as she manifests this reality for Jaime, her searing and deeply personal solo debut. It is dedicated to her older sister—who passed away at 14 from a rare form of eye cancer—but the songs are about Howard. "I did this," says Howard, "so her name would no longer bring me memories of sadness." At a young age, Jaime taught her to write poetry, play the piano, and nurtured in her a love for music, art, and creativity.

Opener "History Repeats" is upbeat, spacey, funkadelic, but its lyrics belie her struggle delving back into painful memories: "I just don't want to be back in this place again/I mean I done cried a little...I don't want to do it again," you hear through heavy vocal effects. "He Loves Me" tackles her relationship with religion and "Georgia" her sexuality. Born to a white mother and black father, race comes to the fore with "Goat Head," as she coos over skittering beats: "Tomatoes are green/And cotton is white/My heroes are black/So why God got blue eyes?"

The album cycles through various styles as Howard experiments with psychedelia, jazz forms, old gospel, neo-soul, and the spoken word format—all with stunning results. "13th Century Metal," evolved from a jam with Robert Glasper and punctuated with the rallying crying: "I repeat we are all brothers and sisters," is particularly insightful. But it's the torch songs that are the most affecting, be it the quiet guitar ballad "Short and Sweet," or the gauzy closer "Run to Me." The latter's Blade Runner-like synths convey an acute loneliness but with a widescreen, cinematic effect. Her aching vocals resemble a lounge room singer wallowing in one too many drinks, unable to mask their unhappiness or true desires. It echoes Purple Rain-era Prince and the rawness of Amy Winehouse, but it is Howard's specific melancholia. It's a mood that isn't easy to shake off. And perhaps you need it to linger. At least till the longing subsides. (www.brittanyhoward.com)

Author rating: 7.5/10

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