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Brittany Howard’s ‘Jaime’ mixes history with heart and soul

| Wednesday, October 2, 2019

JOSEPH HAN | The Observer

To some, Brittany Howard may seem like your typical gospel singer. To others, she is a rising icon in the music industry. Either way, she put a lot of heart and soul into her songs during her time with rock band Alabama Shakes, where she was the lead singer.

Howard made her solo album debut with “Jaime.” This 11-track album depicts a lot of Southern culture and what it was like to grow up in the South with a white mother and African-American father. She uniquely mixes hip-hop, funk and jazz music into each and every one of her album’s 11 tracks. 

The first track, “History Repeats,” is a unique creation in the sense that there are barely any lyrics and the focus is the guitar, keyboard and drums. It brings a lot of feeling to the table, especially considering the fact that the album showcases a lot of Howard’s personal history and beliefs. It is also a contradictory way of saying: “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” Howard suggests that we let ourselves down because of something that has happened in our history. 

The album’s seventh track, “13th Century Metal,” is the longest track on the album and is one of the more popular tracks. Sitting right between “Short and Sweet” and “Baby,” this track adds a hardcore, white-knuckle feel over the course of its almost five-minute runtime. It also serves as a pep talk to those who are experiencing dark times in their lives, whether it be family matters or something within their community. 

Not only does this album portray hard-hitting history but, it also contains influential love songs that give the album a heartwarming feel and hit home with those of the LGBTQ community (Howard is married to female singer-songwriter Jesse Lafser). In particular, the album’s sixth track, “Short and Sweet,” suggests that time is finite and everyone should not waste it doing whatever they normally do. Howard lets her voice out with the help of acoustic strums from her guitar. To complement this, track four, the bluesy “Stay High,” allows Howard to let her voice hang weightlessly as it tells the story of wanting to live with a lover forever in a single moment.

Howard has a way of weaving her own personal life into each track. It clearly shows in “Goat Head.” In this piano-mashing piece, Howard asks rhetorical questions about a hate crime that was committed against her father when she was a baby to disperse the figurative fog on the controversial topic of racism. She knows how to emphasize that in dark times, it is a good thing to pick yourself back up and continue on as you would in your day-to-day life.

Howard’s debut solo album is also a showcase of her dedication to making this album as perfect as possible. She went as far as to put her time in Alabama Shakes on hold so that she could concentrate on her album. And that is dedication for making it big on the charts. 

Overall, “Jaime” drives home a heartfelt message about accepting people for who they are and never letting your personal beliefs get you down. As a soul music fan, it is a nice touch to listen to an album that truly comes from the heart.

The album is dedicated to Howard’s sister Jaime, who passed away in 1998 from retinoblastoma as a teenager.

 

Album: “Jaime”

Artist: Brittany Howard

Label: ATO Records

Favorite Tracks: “13th Century Metal,” “Goat Head,” “Short and Sweet”

If You Like: Vampire Weekend, Mark Ronson, Stevie Wonder

Shamrocks: 4.5 out of 5

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