Brittany Howard Credit: Danny Clinch

The thought of publicly airing painful events from your past may make you cringe, but soul baring can also be cathartic or even necessary. Brittany Howard, the guitarist and front woman of Alabama Shakes, shares a glimpse into some of the challenges she’s faced on her new solo album, Jaime (ATO), named for her sister, who died of the rare eye cancer retinoblastoma at age 13, when Howard was nine. Howard has said she wanted to create the album—and speak about painful things, such as saying her sister’s name—as a way to heal and to help others feel better about themselves. The former postal carrier has previously branched out from Alabama Shakes in the countrified all-woman trio Bermuda Triangle and as leader of retro-punk group Thunderbitch, but this deeply personal album is her first under her own name. On Jaime, Howard confronts life’s obstacles against a mash-up of rock, R&B, gospel, funk, jazz, and country—which seems only natural from someone who learned to sing in church and names Prince and Elvis as influences. “Goat Head” describes the discrimination she and her parents, an interracial couple, faced in the small Alabama town where she grew up—her father once found the tires of his car slashed and the head of a goat in the back seat. On the ballad “Georgia,” Howard makes use of her broad vocal range as she recalls her first crush on another girl and how she longed to express her feelings. But there are upbeat tunes as well: “Stay High,” for instance, is a moseying, soulful number about family, community, and not letting the daily grind harsh your buzz. Don’t come out expecting to hear Alabama Shakes tunes, though: on this tour, Howard and her eight-piece backup band have been playing her solo material and throwing in a few covers.   v