The Upshot: A rock album that is brutally original, emotional and devoid of all pretense.
BY JONATHAN LEVITT
Shawn James is a name that we should be hearing a lot from in the future if I have anything to say about it! His latest album On the Shoulders of Giants keeps the femoral tension high while serving up a heavy helping of whoop ass in the process. Cut at Sun Studios in Memphis the album is filled with some brilliant slide guitar playing that conjures the dark elements of southern culture. Imbued with a killer voice Shawn recalls ZZ Top as well as elements of 16 Horsepower, the music with its spare arrangements is served neat with very little studio tweaking except for some occasional reverb. Shawn’s music strikes the perfect balance throughout.
Opener “Hellhound” sets the tone with its growling distorted guitar and Shawn’s whiskey burnished baritone. The track then just keeps ratcheting up the tension with some brilliantly hallucinatory slide guitar. “Lift Us Up” is spooky with its slide guitar and lone tambourine. The track is a brilliantly dark affair that summons the fire and brimstone of that lone backwoods church where you can see the dirt between the floorboards. “Preacher Foretold” is sung acapella with handclaps and the occasional foot stomp. This track is the perfect summation of what a deep brooding artistic performance he’s turned in. Alas—James’ latest album shows there’s still plenty of road left for southern allegory to be mined and molded into gems such as these 9 tracks.
DOWNLOAD: “Lift Us Up” “Preacher Foretold” “Hellhound” “When It Rains, It Pours