SHAWN JAMES & THE SHAPESHIFTERS – The Gospel According To… (2015)
“The Gospel According To Shawn James & The Shapeshifters” is the fourth recording by Arkansas rockers SHAWN JAMES & THE SHAPESHIFTERS, and in between, they’ve also played over 250 live dates all over the US in their relatively short career.
This is my first listening experience with the band, and I think ‘shapeshifters’ is a good way to describe how James and his bearded cohorts deal with genre bending.
The promotional material labels it ‘rock and roar’ and indeed these guys rock with a strong pulse.
It’s always nice hearing a fresh sound, and SJ&tS have a great one. Both relaxing yet rocky, the tunes chug out one after another until the end of the album when you can’t help but put it back on again.
Depending on your mood, they’re either toe-tappy or head-bangy. Shawn James’ vocals have a hard rocking school, but bluesy at the same time.
The core starting points seems to be some twist of simple and early heavy rock, like something out of the mid-Seventies, and classic Southern rock. But there are more layers put upon this: bluegrass, folk, country and swamp music.
Much of the twist in the mix comes from the inclusion of banjo and violin (not classical as you can imagine), not to mention some steel guitar and Dobro.
Put this album on. Kick off with “No Gods” and you are sucked in by the huge riff, but then there’s the violins, the banjos and only the band know what else, you’d say it was everything but the kitchen sink, except for the fact that the sink is probably there too.
Frankly, it shouldn’t work. But my how it does.
When the album’s aims all come together perfectly, as on “Like Father Like Son,” which possesses deeply personal lyrics about a fathers addiction and a glorious psychedelic section, this really is good.
“Wild Man” is like inviting Rival Sons round for a hoedown by the campfire, and the dramatic ballad “Lake Of Fire” manages to be tender in a world of bluster, while “The Sandbox” even for this record takes you on a journey.
“Strange Days” is a curious, interesting, tune: the heavy and bluesy rock twist, fuzzed out and moving at the pace of metal, results original and a showcase of Shawn James & The Shapeshifters musical blend.
The heaviness really hits with “Back Down” which is so Southern you can almost smell the alligator breath.
“The Gospel According To Shawn James And The Shapeshifters” is frequently bewildering, on occasions baffling, but is never less than brilliantly compelling.
And if you are going to preach about something, it may as well be this as if you seek it out, you will find something quite unlike anything anyone else is attempting right now.
Really interesting and original stuff.
1. No Gods
2. Like Father Like Son
4. Wild Man
5. Strange Days
6. Lake Of Fire
7. Just Because
8. Back Down
10. The Sandbox
Shawn James – Vocals, Guitars
Baker – Tenor Banjo, Dobro
Chris Overcash – Violin
Jeff Bodine – Bass
Zach Coger – Drums
BUY IT !