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Shawn James & The Shapeshifters: The Gospel According To Shawn James & The Shapeshifters

Fair to suggest that as I write this, my head is naked. Why? Well, for all the reviews we publish here at SoT in a year (and it's a lot), to stumble across an album that leaves me scratching my now rather chilly noggin as to what genre it falls under, is a rarity. Most music these days either straddles a few well worn genre types, or simply falls straight into one. Here however with a country edge, a touch of bluegrass, a rock n' roll heart and a dash of metal, Shawn James & The Shapeshifters genuinely sound like no other band I've stumbled across. It's reason to rejoice and yet for all the individuality plaudits I'll happily lump on SJ&TS, it doesn't really float my boat.

With distortion turned up to factor fuzz, the clash of vocals and guitar from Mr James himself, tenor banjo from Baker, violin from Chris Overcash, bass from Jeff Bodine and drums from Zach Coger often seems to crash into a mush of sound that seldom feels meshed together. There's loose and then there's The Gospel According To Shawn James & The Shapeshifters. That doesn't stop the banjo plucking, violin abusing, guitar gyrating rumble of "Back Down" from being a daring hybrid of unknown origin, or "Lilith" from becoming a tambourine shaking enigma of dark themes that makes you stop in your tracks, while "The Sandbox" doesn't quite know whether to make you cry through sorrow, or wet the bed in fear. And yet at low volume it's simply a jumble of sounds with ever evolving vocal, at top volume a spitting roar of rawness and in the car, a reason for my speakers to beg for mercy. Oddly, without being avant-garde, or artsy-farsty, this album really is a challenge to the senses and while you are aware that there are nods and bows to more readily known styles, nothing ever rears its head and asks to be latched on to.

So, my hat remains firmly doffed and yet my heart remains pretty much unmoved. Churlish really, as I often decry the lack of originality and individuality available from oh so many bands. However while I'll applaud and encourage Shawn James & The Shapeshifters every step of the way, I can't say I'll spend much of my time listening to them as I do so.

Track Listing
1. No Gods
2. Like Father Like Son
3. Lost
4. Wild Man
5. Strange Days
6. Lake of Fire
7. Just Because
8. Back Down
9. Lilith
10. The Sandbox

Added: September 19th 2015
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Shawn James Music
Hits: 1364
Language: english

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