Artwork by XZIRTAEBX
Alabama Shakes was formed in 2009 in Athens, Alabama — by a postal worker, a nuclear plant night watchmen, an animal clinic worker and a house painter — as a viable alternative to watching the cars rust, which was the prevailing pastime in Athens at the time. Having weathered a dues-paying, teeth-cutting cover band purgatory of sports bars and country dives and all the mightier for it, the Shakes began building buzz when the breathless blogger hype proved not just believable but vastly understated. On 2012’s million-selling Boys And Girls, Alabama Shakes sounded like Exile On Main Street with Aretha Franklin on lead vocals and Jagger on coke and tambourine. Or Lynyrd Skynyrd’s plane crashing into the Big Brother and the Holding Company’s tour bus.
The sepia-toned Americana, tar-black blooze ecstasies and Muscle Shoals-inflected soul salvations of Boys And Girls blew huge smoking holes in the notion that you simply cannot make it in this business dressed in neckbeards and cat lady glasses no matter how possessed you play or how transcendental the sound you make. The follow up, 2015’s Sound & Color sounds like Nina Simone covering Bowie’s Station To Station (note the deep space setting of the video for the title track), wedding muddy water rock n’ roll to the pneumatic wheeze of analog electronica. No longer just The Mouth That Roared, singer Brittany Howard mixed it up, too, alternately purring like a cat on a hot tin roof and shredding apocalyptic like Mary Clayton at the 3:06 mark of “Gimme Shelter.” It was, hands down, the best album released that year or next and fittingly it went to number one and took home three Grammys.
And then they went dark.
At the beginning of the summer, it was announced that, after multiple aborted attempts to write and record a proper follow-up to Sound & Color, Brittany Howard was striking out on her own, leaving a question mark hanging ominously over the future of the Alabama Shakes. A few days ago, she dropped Jaime, a mesmerizing goats head soup of 21st century psychedelia, blunt-stoked R&B, gospel rapture, moonlit lullaby and greasy funk that dances with the devil and gets right with God, somehow all at once. Named in tribute to her beloved sister who passed away at the tender age of 13, Jaime is a deeply personal statement, a shape-shifting series of prismatic sonic vignettes that rips the band-aid off the psychic lacerations of race, region, religion and sexual personae. After just one listen it becomes immediately apparent why she had to walk down this road alone — and the world is a better place for it.
BRITTANY HOWARD + MY MORNING JACKET @ THE MANN WED. SEPT. 8TH
My Morning Jacket proudly announce the upcoming release of their ninth studio album. Self-titled, MY MORNING JACKET (ATO Records) arrives Friday, October 22 at all DSPs and in various physical formats, including CD and special edition 2LP vinyl; pre-orders begin today. MY MORNING JACKET is preceded by today’s premiere of the album’s first single, “Regularly Scheduled Programming,” available everywhere now with an official music video co-directed by Jim James and George Mays streaming on YouTube.“This song really hits home for me after what we’ve gone through with the pandemic,” says My Morning Jacket’s frontman Jim James on the release of “Regularly Scheduled Programming.” “But even before then, it felt like so many of us were trading real life for social media, trading our own stories for the storylines on TV, trading our consciousness for drugs. We need to help each other wake up to real love before it’s too late.”
The band’s first new music since 2015’s GRAMMY® Award-nominated THE WATERFALL, MY MORNING JACKET reaffirms the rarefied magic that’s made My Morning Jacket so beloved, embedding every groove with moments of discovery, revelation, and ecstatic catharsis. Produced and engineered by James over two multi-week sessions at Los Angeles, CA’s 64 Sound, the album came to life after what looked like a permanent hiatus for the band. But after performing four shows in summer 2019 – beginning with two mind-blowing nights at Red Rocks Amphitheatre – My Morning Jacket was overcome with the urge to carry on. That sense of purpose can be heard throughout the thrillingly expansive MY MORNING JACKET. For all its unbridled joy, songs like “Regularly Scheduled Programming” and the otherworldly, album-closing “I Never Could Get Enough” once again reveal My Morning Jacket’s hunger for exploring the most nuanced and layered existential questions in song form while simultaneously harnessing the hypnotic intensity of their legendary live show more fully than ever before.
“I hope this album brings people a lot of joy and relief, especially since we’ve all been cooped up for so long,” says James. “I know that feeling you get from driving around blasting music you love, or even lying in bed and crying to the music you love. The fact that we’re able to be a part of people’s lives in that way is so magical to us, and it feels really good that we’re still around to keep doing that.”
MY MORNING JACKET will be available on CD as well as two vinyl configurations: 2xLP Clear Vinyl featuring a gatefold jacket with artwork by Robert Beatty, custom inner-sleeves with lyrics, and digital download; and 2xLP 180-Gram Deluxe Colored Vinyl featuring cloudy blue and cloudy orange colored vinyl, deluxe foil gatefold jacket with artwork by Robert Beatty, 24” x 24” circular fold-out poster, custom inner-sleeves with lyrics, and digital download.
PREVIOUSLY: Q&A W/ MY MORNING JACKET’S JIM JAMES