Trail Mix: Brittany Howard

Shake It Up

Brittany Howard Pauses Popular Band to Release New Solo Record

For Brittany Howard, the safest bet would’ve been to make another Alabama Shakes record. As the frontwoman and guitarist of the soul-driven Southern garage-roots outfit, Howard found fast success earlier in the decade. The group’s 2012 debut Boys & Girls was a breakout hit that earned the band an immediate, fervent fanbase, and the 2016 follow-up Sound & Color was an experimental step forward that, including nods for the hard-hitting single “Don’t Wanna Fight,” notched three Grammy Awards. 

But just as anticipation was starting to boil over for a third Shakes album, Howard dropped a surprise—her first solo effort, Jaime, which came out late last month. The album gets its name from Howard’s late sister, whom she lost to cancer as a teenager, and accordingly the record is full of personal introspection.

“The title is in memoriam, and she definitely did shape me as a human being,” Howard explained in a statement on her new album. “But, the record is not about her. It’s about me. 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.”

Lead single “History Repeats” is a retro room-shaker with industrial beats and angular guitar lines, but within the infectious groove Howard sings about her inevitable shortcomings as a flesh-and-blood human being. The slow-burning “He Loves Me” hits hard, too, with a lean, psychedelic arrangement that leaves room for Howard to ponder her relationship with God after an extended period in the spiritual wilderness. 

To make Jaime, Howard traveled to Los Angeles to work with engineer Shawn Everett (Weezer, War on Drugs) and a core band that included keyboard ace Robert Glasper and her Shakes bandmate Zac Cockrell (bass). She came back to the South, though, to film the video for “Stay High,” a twinkling R&B gem that soundtracks footage of actor Terry Crews moving through a mundane day in Howard’s hometown of Athens, Ala. The song, written for Howard’s father, is a celebration of finding comfort in the familiar, and a revealing look at how an innovative artist needed a career detour to find her way back home. 

Brittany Howard will perform at the AfroPunk Festival in Atlanta on October 13.

Five Fall Fests

Catch an array of sounds under the crisp autumn air at these regional events.

Blue Ridge Jam

October 6 |  Black Mountain, N.C. 

Jam-grass pranksters Leftover Salmon developed a high-octane string sound in their native Colorado, but for the fourth year in a row, the group will head to the mountains of western North Carolina to host the Blue Ridge Jam. Held on the outdoor stage at Pisgah Brewing Company, the one-day fest will also feature sets from Perpetual Groove, Acoustic Syndicate, and the Rev. Jeff Mosier. 

Moonshiner’s Ball

October 10-13 | Livingston, Ky.

As the organizers of the Moonshiner’s Ball put it, this is “not a corporate mega-festival.” Instead expect a homegrown hoedown in the hills of Kentucky with a carefully curated line-up of roots artists, including Tauk, Rayland Baxter, Sinkane, Brass Against, Lilla Mae, and Ghost of Paul Revere. A mix of music, art, poetry, and yoga, the event takes place at Rockcastle Riverside, a scenic hideaway on the banks of the Rockcastle River.

The Festy

October 11-13 | Charlottesville, Va. 

The Festy is rebooting for its 10th running, moving from the mountains of central Virginia into the city limits of Charlottesville. Bands performing on the stage of the event’s new downtown home at the IX Art Park include Dawes, Della Mae, Samantha Fish, and Robert Randolph & the Family Band. 

Richmond Folk Festival

October 11-13 | Richmond, Va.

Eclectic roots artists from around the world converge on the RVA waterfront for this annual fest that turns 15 this year. A variety of genres and cultures will be represented at the always-free event; this year set to feature sets from Cajun stalwarts BeauSoleil, honky-tonk ace Dale Watson, Tuareg guitarist Bombino, Tuvan throat-singing group Huun-Huur-Tu, and a taste of home with Appalachian pickers Lonesome River Band. 

Highlands Food and Wine Festival

November 7-10 | Highlands, N.C. 

Roots music heroes and regional culinary innovators both take center stage at this increasingly popular festival in western North Carolina. While you’re enjoying dishes from some of the South’s best chefs, sounds will come from the Infamous Stringdusters, Anderson East, the Wood Brothers, and Nicole Atkins.

Places to Go, Things to See: