New Orleans-born and bred, Americana-soul singer-songwriter Jenn Howard drops her second album, Valiant Women, narrating an intimate, vulnerable journey of self-discovery.
Howard explains, “This body of work showcases what it was like for me to be a woman searching to discover myself again after losing footing in my hopes and dreams.”
Between the ages of 16-21, Howard was co-founder, co-songwriter, and vocalist of Project NIM, releasing three albums with the group that featured three future members of The National. Howard’s sound blends elements of country, funk, folk, blues, jazz, and indie-rock into lush music dripping with beaucoup swagger.
Encompassing 10 tracks, Valiant Women begins with “Better Than You Think,” traveling on a funk-lite rhythm topped by cool brass accents and Howard’s evocative voice, which, when it shifts into a delicious, rasping growl, sends shivers up listeners’ spine.
Highlights on the album include “Hold On,” rolling out on a graceful, melancholic piano as Howard’s tender vocals imbue the lyrics with hints of gospel blues. When the backing harmonies enter, the tune takes on rich, radiant tones, simultaneously wistful and nostalgic.
“Times we spent and times worth spending / Here’s to us let’s not forget it / Time to live and let go let it / Times like this are never-ending.”
A personal favorite because of its fat, rolling bassline and braying brass, “Wanted” merges hints of soul, blues, and country into an undulating tune, swaying on buttery leitmotifs.
With its nasty guitar intro, low and dirty, “Pocket Fox” conjures up suggestions of ZZ Top – simmering flavors of scowling blues transporting Howard’s sensuous voice, exuding luxurious wails and nuanced timbres.
Arguably the best track on the album, “I Can’t Call” pushes out swanky savors of soul and rock, while Howard’s voice imbues the lyrics with urgent, longing timbres.
“We waltz in playing cards / You smile and win awards / You win fans and play the part / Well, Goddamn that’s a good start / I can’t call, can’t call, I can’t call.”
Another gem, “Where’d You Go” showcases the range and yummy shades of Howard’s expressive voice.
As a whole, Valiant Women is a grand album, drenched in the nonpareil voice of Jenn Howard, who absolutely knows how to sing.