When the sold-out crowd at the 9:30 Club started chanting, “Thank you Brittany, clap clap, clap clap clap,” like a jubilant high school cheer, just as she left the stage before her encore, you knew no one was ready for her stellar performance to be over. Brittany Howard reappeared smiling sheepishly and bowing, “You know, I’ve never heard that one before,” which sent the fans into an even louder applause. It was a humble and genuine response from an incredibly gifted artist.
Many of you likely know Brittany Howard as the lead singer for the GRAMMY award-winning band the Alabama Shakes. She kicked off her solo tour in August, with the 3rd– 4th nights in DC, and has a new album titled Jaime, named after her deceased sister, due to release on September 20th. On her Facebook Page she wrote the record “as a process of healing.” Her sister passed when she was a teenager and she wanted to change the memory of her from something sad to something beautiful. “I did this so her name would no longer bring me memories of sadness and as a way to thank her for passing on to me everything she loved: music, art, creativity.”
I already feel like doing it again, honey ‘Cause once you know, then you know And you don’t wanna go Back to wherever it is that you come from, yeah
I just want to stay high with you
– “Stay High” from Jaime (2019)
But, as Brittany explains, this new record is not about Jaime. “It’s about me. It’s not as veiled as work I have done before. I’m pretty candid about myself and who I am and what I believe. Which, is why I needed to do it on my own.” Some of the songs were actually written years ago “forgotten, waiting to come to life” and others were inspired by a cross-country US tour where she was able to witness natural beauty alongside some of life’s darker tragedies, such as poverty and loneliness. It was also a time of self-reflection.
“I suppose all I want is to help others feel a bit better about being,” explains Brittany in her FB letter, and that was truly evident this past Friday night as she shared her new music with us. It was passionate, powerful, soulful and vulnerable all at the same time. There were elements of funk and experimental R&B, accentuated by her extraordinary vocal range, and the message of the music was heartfelt and sincere. Whether it was about her relationship with God and the people she loves or to speak out about hate and those that seek to perpetuate it, “It’s really easy,“proclaimed Brittany, “We are all brothers and sisters!!”
Brittany’s solo tour is in progress right now across the US and one show in Toronto, Canada. Here in DC, we had the pleasure of seeing Thelma and the Sleaze as the opener. They are Nashville’s brazen all-girl garage-punk rockers. Be sure to check them both out if you can!