BRITTANY HOWARD, “JAIME” ALBUM REVIEW: Testing History

Brittany Howard making a solo album…that was probably the majority of fans’ presumption.

Brittany Howard was the brain of Alabama Shakes. She was the band’s sole songwriter who grabbed hit albums and awards from the debut. Her guitar was dynamite. She was the only member who moved around on the stage. And that big, hot, and passionate voice. Brittany was a stunna enough to be a great frontwoman. The other three guys’ existence was faded away behind Brittany, and probably many people wouldn’t notice even if a member changed.

But there is a very important principle in this music world. There aren’t many musicians whose solo albums are more successful than their bands, and there are a few musicians who created a better album than their previous bands after being independent. Bands have their special chemistry. David Lee Roth hasn’t been more successful than Van Halen. Each original member of KISS and Guns N’ Roses (except Axl Roses) created a solo album but none achieved bigger success than their bands. The Black Crowes was a successful blues-rock band like Alabama Shakes, but where are the members now after disbandment, including Robinson brothers? Beyonce’s albums haven’t surpassed Destiny Child yet even she bravely challenges her own music all the time. Proven by history, and history repeats.

So my curiosity about Brittany Howard’s first solo album was whether that would be better than Alabama Shakes or not. I didn’t think its musical direction would be much different with her band. Probably similar blues-rock. And I knew she wouldn’t make a bad album. Brittany Howard is an outstanding songwriter. I wanted to know how she would pull up my interest and excitement differently with Alabama Shakes.

Well, my impression is, Jaime is within the boundary of a “solo album”. Not bad, but not extraordinary beyond the sparkling band chemistry.

I am not sure if Brittany created this album to exceed Alabama Shakes. Probably not (Britanny still belongs to Alabama Shakes, right?). One thing certain is she created the solo album for herself, an ordinal reason just like many other solo projects. But not music because, again, the music is similar to Alabama Shakes, though not the same, either. Rather in concept. Many artists want to try a different music style with their solo album, but “Jaime” is on the contrast with those.

The music of Jaime is between Alabama Shakes and Bermuda Triangle, Brittany’s side project that had a tour last year. To be more specific, between Alabama Shakes’ second Sound & Color and Bermuda Triangle. Same southern rock, but between blues-rock and porch music. Easy to track Brittany’s musical learning.

What are different from Alabama Shakes? First, Jaime is a female album. Alabama Shakes has masculinity and roughness as a sexually mixed band. Jaime doesn’t contain heavy groove like “Always Alright”, “Hang to Loose”, and “Don’t Wanna Fight”, and boldness like “On Your Way” (my fav) and “Dunes”. Jaime doesn’t have rolling blues guitar like “Rise to Shine” and Heavy Chase” either even Brittany Howard is definitely good on playing blues. The heaviest song is “13th Century Metal” with rusty industrial (revolutionary?) sound, but even that song is not bold like Alabama Shakes (“13th Century Metal” has similar musical direction with “The Greatest” from Sound & Color). Jaime album once again let me realize that Alabama Shakes isn’t feminine in a good way even though it is obvious that the front person is a female. Relaxed mood occupies throughout Jaime without heating tension.

Second, Jaime is Brittany Howard’s private album, just like the main purpose of other solo albums. The title is the name of Brittany’s deceased sister. Lyrics contain more personal interests such as equality on “13th Century Metal”, race and color as being biracial on “Goat Head”, religion on “He Loves Me” and those two songs, and Brittany’s love songs from the perspective of her sexuality. Jaime gives a good opportunity for me to find out that the lyrics of Alabama Shakes are more general subjects and ordinal loves (does Alabama Shakes have many love songs? No, not many).

The album quality isn’t bad all. All songs pass satisfying quality. The album has a variety as well. But Jaime doesn’t have significantly impressive songs, typical among the majority of other solo albums. The result was, I repeatedly listened back to Alabama Shakes’ albums over and over again while writing this review. Even the presence of the other members is weaker, Alabama Shakes creates their strong chemistry with the four members including Brittany Howard, and their chemistry is ecstasy.

RELEASE DATE (US): 09/20/2019

OVERALL POINTS: 79/100

  • Songs: ★★★+3/4
  • Originality: ★★★★
  • Thrills: ★★★
  • Song orders: ★★★★★★
  • Vocal: ★★★★
  • Background: ★★★★
  • Production: ★★★★
  • Strong songs: “History Repeats”, “Stay High”, “13th Century”

EXTRA (NOT COUNTED TOWARD THE OVERALL POINTS)

  • Title: C
  • Album cover: C

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