This is the debut solo studio album by the lead guitarist / vocalist of chart-topping, Grammy-winners Alabama Shakes. It’s going to be on everyone’s “best of” lists come December, as it’s great. It’s not like the Shakes, though.
Howard wrote and composed all of the music, and played a lot, too we suspect. The songs are oddly disjointed, a collage of ragged sounds that Howard has stitched together to great effect.
History Repeats kicks off with a military snare roll and then an off-kilter marching drum (it’s similar to the drums in the intro of Oasis’s Live Forever, but sharper and harder) before a bluesy guitar. He Loves Me is the first song — but not the last — that makes you think of Prince; closer Run To Me is a slower take on Doves Cry.
The best taster for the album is perhaps Stay High, where a solid, bluesy rhythm underpins thumb-piano. The thumb piano, by its nature, is not precise and it wanders either side of the beat in a delightfully ragged way. Short And Sweet channels Nina Simone.
Lyrically, it’s a protest album led by standout track Georgia, a plea from a black woman for her home state to take notice of her, in an era where jerrymandering deprives blacks of votes and the US moves further to the right in its desire to control what women do with their bodies. God (she’s in favour) and racial discrimination (against, obviously) are also recurring themes.
The album is named after Howard’s sister, who died at 13 after being diagnosed with a rare form of eye cancer; the album is clearly important to Howard. An essential purchase for anyone who likes good music.
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