Hopefully you’re familiar with the Arkansas based band, Shawn James and The Shapeshifters, if you’re not do some Googling. Today we are here to talk about the Shawn James solo record On The Shoulders Of Giants. Recorded in Memphis at Sun Studios, On The Shoulders Of Giants, is a stripped-down and intense blues album.
The instrumentation is minimal, guitar, kick drum and tambourine, but the real feature here is James’ voice. The Shapeshifters are loud and James’ voice has to be strong to float over the band but on this solo record his voice has the opportunity to shine alone. His range and control are impressive and the tone brings with it a weightiness that suits the songs he writes.
By the time the third song, “When It Rains, It Pours” kicks in it is clear that On The Shoulders Of Giants isn’t a boogie blues record. These are dark and heavy blues tunes that tap into the hypnotic tradition. This is an album best enjoyed with headphones in or sitting in the dark all alone. James’ voice adds to the darkness, wraps around the heaviness of blackness and seeps through our ears and chest.
The feel is so consistent on On The Shoulders Of Giants that songs slide from one to the other. Shawn James has captured a moment, a sound and the songs serve the sound as much as they serve themselves. “Delilah” stands out in the middle of the record and gives me goosebumps every time I hear it.
By the time the album closes with “Preacher Foretold” it’s clear that Shawn James has been mixing in a hint of gospel music while also channeling the dramatic side of metal and hypnotic blues. The hand claps on “Preacher Foretold” carry the rhythm up and down my spine. It’s is a song and an album that requires repeated listenings.