Brittany Howard, on tour with her solo album, plays two Bay Area shows this week. (Courtesy Danny Clinch)

Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard goes solo

Eclectic album ‘Jaime’ pays tribute to singer’s late sister

Alabama Shakes frontwoman Brittany Howard — who also anchors Thunderbitch, Bermuda Triangle and Wormhole, an edgy duo she started with her wife Jesse Lafser — doesn’t know why she’s so driven.

“I guess it’s just to see what can be done, or what can happen. Because there’s no end goal to this. I just want to share my message with a lot of people, and have them feel what I’m saying when I’m saying it. That feels good to me,” says the bluesy belter, who hits the Bay Area on tour this week promoting her new, eclectic solo effort “Jaime,” dedicated to her late older sister.

Just as the Shakes was at the height of its success with four Grammy wins for its 2015 sophomore disc “Sound & Color,” she shuttered it to track the solo album, which she put together with Shakes bassist Zac Cockrell.

She also held fast to her zany video concept for its swaying single “Stay High,” which features actor Terry Crews hilariously lip-synching every delicate lyric. She says, ”I knew it had to be him in that clip, and I even told myself ‘If Terry Crews does not say yes, then I’m not doing the video.’ But he said, ‘Yeah! I’m in!’”

When she finally paused to catch her breath in 2018 to consider her next post-Grammy step, the getaway summer vacation she and Lafser scheduled began to look suspiciously like work, too.

Last year, the couple (who have since moved to New Mexico) left their native Nashville for two cross-country road trips, one to Oregon, another to Los Angeles, traveling by 2000 Jeep Cherokee and visiting every national park they could along the way.

There were some unsettling moments. “Going through little Trump Country towns was pretty scary. I mean, I’m in a same-sex, interracial relationship, and we were just walking around, being ourselves. But these guys in big jacked-up trucks drove by and threw fireworks at us and yelled something hateful,” says Howard.

On the upside, she says, they also saw a “gorgeous, beautiful and diverse” American landscape — and a moose.

The trip got Howard thinking about a long-overdue “Jaime” tribute, which includes diverse experiments like the cabaret-cool “Goat Head” and a jazzy “History Repeats.”

“We didn’t have a lot growing up,” she recalls of her sibling, who died in 1998 from retinoblastoma, the same eye cancer that she herself narrowly survived. “We used our imaginations, and she introduced me to music at an early age and taught me to use my creativity. So I didn’t do any of this alone.”

IF YOU GO

Brittany Howard

Where: Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd., S.F.

When: 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22

Tickets: $49

Contact: (415) 346-6000, www.livenation.com

Note: Howard also appears at 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23 at the Fox Theater in Oakland.

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