Brittany Howard Delivers A Soul-Shaking NPR Tiny Desk Performance

Bringing joy and melancholy in equal measure, Alabama Shakes singer Brittany Howard performs tender songs from her album Jaime for NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series. Backed up by her super-coordinated band and decked out in black and red, Howard runs through a four-song set that includes “Stay High,” “Georgia,” “Baby,” and “Goat Head.” She also provides a bit of levity, giving some tongue-in-cheek advice to all future Tiny Desk performers: “Dress light,” because “it’s very hot in here.”

She explains, “I always wanted to write songs like these ever since I picked up a guitar when I was 11 years old,” after delivering a soul-stirring rendition of “Georgia,” which tells her experience of being “a little young, Black, gay girl having a crush on an older Black girl and not knowing what to say and how I was feeling.” Of “Baby,” which she calls a “love song,” she says, “Sometimes love is not 100 percent. Sometimes you’ve got that 80-20 split and you on the bad side.”

Although Howard was first introduced to the mainstream with her band Alabama Shakes, her backing band here acquit themselves just as easily, with drummer Nate Smith, guitarists Alex Chakour and Brad Allen Williams, bassist Zac Cockrell, keyboardists Lloyd Buchanan and Paul Horton, and vocalists Shanay Johnson and Karita Law bringing the house down — with some assistance from an NPR staffer’s infant, who chimes in at just the right time on “Baby.”

Jaime is out now via ATO Records.