Album Reviews

Album Review: Brittany Howard – Jaime (Sony)

Sam Smith
Brittany Howard - Stay High (Official Live Session)

It has been four years since blues-rock revivalists Alabama Shakes released their critically acclaimed second album Sound & Color. However, with no new album in sight, frontwoman Brittany Howard decided to go solo and has just put out the first release under her own name titled Jaime.

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Brittany Howard by Dennis Manuel

Named after Howard’s late sister of which the album is dedicated to... Jaime is a deeply personal and reflective album with Howard looking back on her life at thirty. This is Howard opening herself to her fans with no guards up and no apologies for what at times can be quite deep content dealing with themes such as spirituality and being a black woman.

On Jamie, Howard has complete control of the recording process, self-producing the record and dictating the musical direction of the songs. This has led to a record completely different from the heavier more up-tempo records her band put out. 

If anything, the sound of Jamie is more sombre and downtempo, all be it quite eclectic in places with hip hop, spoken word, and experimental styles coming into play. The soulful exuberance of Howard’s amazing voice is still there in patches but it is more masked than what was the case in Alabama Shakes to suit the deeper lyrical content of the songs.

In this effort to experiment stylistically on Jamie and address many of the personal issues in her life through song, if often feels Howard struggles to get out of second gear throughout the record. Knowing the power of her voice, one does wonder whether she was deliberately holding back to suit the overall feel and mood of the record

It is all very well to experiment and make an album completely removed from the formula that garnered one's success in the past, but sometimes if you go too far in the other direction the results can be confusing and at times a little underwhelming which I think is the case here.

There were some small glimpses of brilliance such as the magical Stay High and soulful Georgia. However, these were the exception rather than the norm leaving you wanting more and wondering why Howard could not sustain this across the eleven tracks.

It remains to be seen whether Alabama Shakes has a future but on her first outing as a solo artist one cannot help but say that Brittany Howard can do better.

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Released: 20 Sep 2019

Written By: Sam Smith When he is not writing for Radio 13 Sam works in media and journalism at 95bFM radio and the University of Auckland. He also has is own personal music blog Nowhere Bros.