Brittany Howard review – a funk-rooted tour de force

Paradiso, Amsterdam
Brittany Howard’s deeply personal solo detour from Alabama Shakes fuses funk and spiritual and leaves Amsterdam rapt

When Brittany Howard, erstwhile singer of the US garage-soul band Alabama Shakes, was a young child, someone slashed the tyres on the family’s car and left a goat’s head on the back seat. Who could have done such a thing? The question has troubled Howard all her life. She knows one thing for sure: it was someone in her native Athens, Alabama, who was unimpressed by the fact that Howard’s mother was white and her father black. Continue reading

Muscle Shoals co-founder Jimmy Johnson dies aged 76

The musician and producer worked on recordings by Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones and George Michael

Jimmy Johnson, co-founder of the celebrated Muscle Shoals sound studios and guitarist on Aretha Franklin’s Respect, has died age 76. His son Jay Johnson said he died on Thursday; the cause of death was not disclosed.

Johnson and his bandmates in the Swampers founded the studio in Sheffield, Alabama, in 1969, after leaving the employ of Rick Hall and his nearby Fame studios. They were the first group of musicians to own a studio and later run their own publishing and production arms. Continue reading

End of the Road festival review – potent bacchanalia and mysticism

‘See you in the twilight zone’ says one musician; EOTR has enough weirdness, charm and shaggy charisma to weather our end-of-days era

As Britain’s most reliably brilliant midsize festival, End of the Road has grown up by refusing to expand. Without bland corporate sponsorship or dehumanising big screens flanking its main stages, it is defined by its oddball community, a circus of hedonists, eccentrics and beleaguered parents whose buggies clog paths as toddlers gawp at the peacocks. Hidden sculptures and carved tree trunks give the small site an otherworldly forcefield; the stranger who held forth on avant-garde mixology around the campfire will unfailingly reappear one morning, perhaps during your recuperative stroll around the beekeeping enclosure. It is, for all its twee nooks and middle-class crannies, a winning mix of bacchanalia and earthy mysticism. Continue reading


It’s been a sizzling bank holiday weekend in more ways than one.  Not only have we enjoyed unprecedented temperatures but we’ve had Motown music scorching the airwaves. At long last national radio celebrated the 60th birthday.  BBC Radio 2 opened its frequency with non-stop music and chatting company artists. The Motown countdown kicked off at noon today (Monday) with Craig Charles and the UK’s top one hundred, followed by Trevor Nelson – who I’m listening to now –  as he picks up the next top fifty singles. “Superstition” was the number one downloaded/streamed  song – which is a blinding track – but did surprise me a little. I’m thinking his recent concert here embedded him in the public’s mind, hence his runaway popularity in the top one hundred.  The early evening session has Ken Bruce spinning Motown cover versions, before Richard Searling highlights the company’s connections with Northern Soul. Then Lionel Richie talks to Johnnie Walker in the early hours: sorry guys, it’ll be without this gal!  All programmes are available via the BBC website though. Continue reading

Brittany Howard review – politics and transcendance from Alabama Shakes star

EartH, London
An acoustic moment mid-set proves incendiary for this UK solo debut in support of Howard’s forthcoming album Jaime

It takes a moment of quiet for Brittany Howard’s first solo show in the UK to explode. Halfway through the Alabama Shakes singer’s set, she stands alone on stage with an acoustic guitar, to sing Short and Sweet, a delicate little number from her forthcoming album, Jaime. Without other instruments to compete – the sound had felt cold and hard for the first part of the night, despite the room’s mugginess – her voice begins to fill the space. Continue reading