Arkansas based rock band Shawn James & The Shapeshifters will
be releasing their new album “The Gospel According to Shawn James & The
Shapeshifters” on April 7th, 2015.
The self-proclaimed “Rock & Roar” band
funded this album via Kickstarter and were able to meet and exceed their $10,000
goal with the help of their fans.
With some of the fuzziest guitars I’ve heard in a while, we
kick off the album with a very distinct melodic riff from the guitars. The
heavy guitar intro dissipates into Shawn James' soulful voice singing “No Gods
before me,” with light banjo accompaniment in the background. With a
combination of energetic guitar riffs and virtuosic fiddling, we quickly come to
an end to the first track of the album.
There wasn’t too much variation in how they treated the
music until more than halfway through the album. It was pretty much exclusively
fuzzy distorted guitars playing in the lower register, moving around with slides
while the vocals stuck to the same technique and timbre. This changes in “Lake
of Fire”, where we hear a noticeably different tone from the guitar and a
snippet of a melody from the fiddle. As we move through this song, we do end up
with the same guitar sound, but the vocals are softer and the fiddle has a much
more active role in the song than it did in the other ones. This change of pace
is refreshing, especially at this point in the album where I was worried it
might continue down the same road it had been earlier.
The tone of the album changes pretty drastically from
this point forward. The fiddle plays a much more important role in the
melody, and the guitars complement the voice in a very deliberate way. There
are some very clever uses of motivic ideas being used as well. inally,
we’re able to hear a much softer side of Shawn James’ voice working in more
A trap a lot of bands tend to fall into is that they’re
forceful and energetic all the time without ever reaching a high or low point.
I was worried that this would be the case with this album, but even after
showing how intense they can get, they are able to take it even a step further,
and it’s quite a jarring sound.
When the band mellows out, they can really showcase their
creepy side. Particularly notable in the final song on the album “The Sandbox”.
The intro begins with a slow melody on the guitar that is eventually met with
softer singing from Shawn James. The combination creates a very uneasy
atmosphere and it is quite effective. The entire atmosphere of this song is
kind of chilling and really acts as a great close to this album.
The album is overall pretty good. The first half of the album
feels a little drawn out considering how similar the songs are to each other,
save for “Lost”. This creates a weird balance between the first and second half
of the album for me, as the second half has a lot of diversity in its sound
while the first is rather stagnant. I’m not sure if this was intentional or if
it’s just how the album turned out. Either way, the album is good and certainly
worth a listen.