Photo courtesy of Shawn James
Hello and welcome to Discovery Corner on BTR!
It’s another hot summer night in the land of the Ozarks, that rare breed of heat you can only sweat along the Mississippi. A band pulls up to the bar–sporting wily tumbleweed beards, tattoos and grins.
A banjo and violin are lugged in tow, and the audience nestles into their booze soaked stools. Whether or not it’s spoken, the denizens of Fayetteville, Arkansas are expecting an evening of bluegrass music as the five members take to the stage.
Instead, they are greeted by raucous thunder. Barrel-fisted guitar pummels alongside the frenetic thrash of heavy metal drumming. The banjo and violin? Both musicians are head-banging at the front of the stage; shredding with chicken-pickin’ abandon into the heart of the maelstrom.
Some people get up and leave. A couple of fans complain about the abrasiveness, and wish together for a return to the band’s folksy-er roots. However a majority of old and new listeners alike gaze on in wonder, pausing only intermittently between a mosh to realize they are witnessing something truly unique.
Shawn James & The Shapeshifters isn’t just another rag-tag ensemble of conventional string dusters. They may build expectations by resembling their Arkansas-based, traditional-playing contemporaries, but these rogue bluegrassers have discovered a noticeably harder edge.
With their most recent release The Gospel According To Shawn James & The Shapeshifters, James and his musical cohorts breed heavy metal, folk, soul, and bluegrass elements together into a hellacious brew that’s best chugged and enjoyed in excess. It’s a sound they’ve aptly dubbed “rock and roar.”
The experiment doesn’t seem like it should work, but somehow ends up sounding like the best idea you wish you’d dreamt up first. The sprite twang and timbre of the banjo sails on top the sludge of distortion, with soaring fiddle to help guide the songs forward.
But enough words, check out the tunes for yourself!
And don’t forget to check out the Discovery Artist feature on The Shapeshifters!
Upcoming Tour Dates
08/08/15 – Ink ‘N Iron Fest, Nashville, TN
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