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Sunday, September 19, 2021

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Brittany Howard's fearless 'Jaime' blasts racism's specter

Brittany Howard’s fearless ‘Jaime’ blasts racism’s specter

The Alabama Shakes singer's soul-inferno album confronts uncomfortable truths—and was almost called 'Black Björk'

With “Jaime”, a fearless debut solo album from Brittany Howard (appearing Fri/22 at the Fillmore, SF), the incendiary lead singer of Alabama Shakes, there is such an extreme energy convergence taking place: from the funk blues, discussing her relationship with GOD, pushed through hot mics via powerhouse pipes.

Apocalyptic rants of togetherness over space jazz beep fusion landscapes, with Robert Glasper raising those frequencies on keys, clapping back at the “right in your face” racism, still going strong in 2019. The search for connectedness via queer-leaning love songs, emotionally available to everybody who yearns to love or be loved, dipped in that Curtis Mayfield gospel sweet delivery system.

People. Howard almost called the record Black Björk.

Striking out on her own to write and produce a record that comes from the perspective of a queer, mixed-race woman, born to a black father and white mother in the same city as the founder of neo-Nazi message board Stormfront and a former Grand Wizard in the Klan, was the only choice. Jaime, named in memoriam after Howard’s sister, who died at 13 after being diagnosed with a rare form of eye cancer, is a soul record built for and by our turbulent times, seeking humanity.

Boisterous, noisy, and unpleasant in stretches, this is not designed for your boondoggle of a Spotify playlist made for sipping 7am green juice. We need the colonic, a soundtrack for the soul of nation falling apart or coming together. These sound palettes, from Prince-informed sheen, Sharon Jones’ gravitational pull, and DʻAngelo mood funk, reach past the retro-soul niceness of Alabama Shakes 2012 Boys & Girls and stretches further out than 2015ʻs Grammy-winning Sound & Color.

Packing the fuck-you presence of her rock group Thunderbitch and the alt-moves of her country adjacent band Bermuda Triangle, Jaime is Howardʻs most realized musical patchwork to be housed on one project. Folks not experienced with living life in the margins may have difficulty. Before recording in Topanga CA, she took several trips across the country. While passing through Wyoming and Oregon, she caught the racism vapors all around her, triggered by how casually the open carry gun laws were practiced.

On the opener “History Repeats” a kick drum boom squares us off, with a snare building up over it running directly into a picking guitar minimal funkscapade where Howard slides into Prince vocal ease with: “I just don’t want to be back in this place again, I mean, I done cried a little, Tried a little, failed a little, I don’t wanna do it again.”

Those vapors get frenetic emergency broadcast system vibes, theremin frequencies, and full square free jazz fusion thwack bumpification on the call to arms of “13 Century Metal.”

Proclaimed from some type of loudspeaker squawk box, delivered with the tone of a Black elder stateswoman: “We are brothers and sisters, each and every one, I promise to love my enemy, and never become that which is not God, I dedicate my spirit in the service, Of what is good and fair and righteous, Every day I am alive, I am given opportunities to become that which I admire most of others, I am nonviolent, I am a master student and my spirit, Will never be stomped out.”

All underfoot of some type of Weather Report breakbeat expanse, riding hard. Fearless in every way, Jaime is that valiant soul record mirroring America.

John-Paul Shiverhttps://www.clippings.me/channelsubtext
John-Paul Shiver has been contributing to 48 Hills since 2019. His work as an experienced music journalist and pop culture commentator has appeared in the Wire, Resident Advisor, SF Weekly, Bandcamp Daily, PulpLab, AFROPUNK, and Drowned In Sound.
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