Album Reviews

Shawn James

On the Shoulders of Giants

Artist:     Shawn James

Album:     On the Shoulders of Giants

Label:     Self-Released

Release Date:     06/17/2016


Shawn James grew up singing in gospel churches, trained in opera, orchestra and choir during his middle school years, and then went on to learn the guitar, piano and trumpet in high school. For a musician this versatile it only makes sense to record at the legendary Sun Studios in Memphis, where any instrument you can imagine is within an arm’s reach and the walls are saturated with the spirits of Elvis, Johnny Cash and so many more.

James is part of the Arkansas quartet, Shawn James and the Shapeshifters, but On the Shoulders of Giants is his newest solo release. Similar to his band’s name, James is able to morph himself and his sound into just about anything. There’s heavy bluesy, gospel influences in his tracks, but there is also a lot of soul shining through. And those aforementioned spirits from Sun Studios.

“Hellhound” is a powerful intro track that allows James’ vocals to completely shine through. Equally as haunting and good is “Life Us Up”. “He would be a great collaborator or touring support for someone like Jason Isbell,”came to my mind immediately. And wouldn’t you know it, according to Instagram it turns out James is currently working on a cover of a Isbell song for an upcoming acoustic show.

On the Shoulders of Giants sees James playing guitar, kick drum and tambourine on nine tracks. With Curry Weber as recording engineer (Gin Blossoms, Huey Lewis and the News), and Kevin Nix as mastering engineer (Stevie Ray Vaughn, Wiz Kalifa, Three 6 Mafia) this is truly a special collection of songs.

“I fuse elements of all kinds of music into something powerful, and I hope, unique,” James has said of On the Shoulders of Giants. And with that, there’s really no need for an album review because James perfectly explained what the last few paragraphs have been trying to describe. No further explanation needed as to why this album belongs in your collection. James is truly unique and someone to watch out for.

– Brenda Hillegas

Got something to say?