SHAWN JAMES

Psyko Steve Presents

SHAWN JAMES

THE DARK & THE LIGHT TOUR 2019, THE BLOOD FEUD FAMILY SINGERS, SHAWN SKINNER

Fri, March 8, 2019

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 7:30 pm

Valley Bar

Phoenix, AZ

$12.50 - $15.00

This event is 21 and over

SHAWN JAMES
SHAWN JAMES
Shawn James’ voice is a force of nature, a musical preacher to a flock that accepts everyone, a combination of the gospel choirs he sang with as a youngster and his training in classical music and opera. Born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, James’ timeless sound is steeped in blues legends like Robert Johnson and Son House, forever at the crossroads of damnation and redemption, the two inextricably woven into the fabric of his songs.

The Dark & the Light, his first album for L.A.-based indie label Parts + Labor Records, marks a creative leap forward for the 32-year-old troubadour. James annually tours more than 150 dates around the world and has released some 70 songs over the past five years, both on his own and as part of his “more raucous, rock” band the Shapeshifters, a loose group of musicians formed in Fayetteville, AR, which served as his temporary home before a recent move to the west coast.

Transcending any and all genres, James’ songs speak as much to these tremulous times as they do the eternal human condition. Steeped in mythology (the fearsome a cappella which opens “Orpheus”) and America’s dark past (the deep delta blues of “Burn the Witch”), The Dark & the Light seeks to turn despair into hope – as he does on the two-part tribute to his steel-worker father on “Love Will Find a Way I” and “Love Will Find a Way II.” Shawn’s father died an alcoholic when he was five and the two songs feature a journey from the depths of despair to the heights of ecstatic communion. Shawn sings, “The blood that filled his veins flows through mine/It’s not that I’m ashamed but how can I redefine how your story ends.”

“The record’s about turning the darkness and pain I’ve experienced in my life into songs that can inspire others to make the best of hard times,” he says. Recorded at his new label’s Venice Beach, CA, recording studio with producer Jimmy Messer (AWOLNation, Kelly Clarkson, Kygo, The White Buffalo), the songs for the new album were written by James while back in Chicago.

“I’ve discovered how to get to the point quicker, to do more with less,” explains James about how his songwriting has evolved. “I’m confident enough now to make my music more accessible without losing its integrity and honesty.”

Songs like the Memphis soul of “There It Is,” which vows to counteract bad deeds with good work and the deep blues of “Haunted,” about moving on despite the injustice around us, both tackle the current volatile cultural climate without mentioning names or taking sides.

“For a long time, I wouldn’t mix music and politics, but I reached the point where I realized I shouldn’t be ashamed for speaking up,” Shawn says. “All the craziness is what inspired me to speak up, to try to live a moral life in spite of it.”

In “The Weak End” and “The Curse of the Fold,” James urges us to embrace our vulnerability in the midst of those who would take advantage, urging us never to give up, to keep going, and not just turn our cards over.

“Without music, I honestly don’t know where I would be right now,” admits Shawn. “I was lucky I had something to bleed into, to cope with the struggles of my everyday life.” After James’ father died, his Greek stepfather introduced him to the Pentecostal church, where his vocal talent was recognized immediately and put to use in the choir. A child prodigy, Shawn entered a number of vocal competitions, with a multi-octave range that makes him unique as an artist. He didn’t start playing acoustic guitar until high school and didn’t start writing songs seriously until he was in his mid-twenties. Studying classical music helped him hone his vocal technique, but he learned to let loose emotionally in church. “I had the mix of both worlds,” he says.

Much of those ministers’ fiery rhetoric resonated with James, whose music offers a congregation with no borders or boundaries. “I’ve found that my songs with the biggest impact are the ones that inspire people, and try to lift them up,” he says. “Fans tell me how these songs saved their lives. Is there any greater accomplishment than that? I fully embraced that on this album. These days, people need encouragement, and I just wanted to contribute.”

The new album is James’ fourth solo effort, following his 2012 debut, Shadows , 2014’s Deliverance and 2016’s On the Shoulders of Giants , in addition to a live release ( Live at the Heartbreak House ) and a two-song covers EP recorded while on tour in Madrid (including set staples “That’s Life” and “Ain’t No Sunshine”). His songs have been featured on HBO, CBS and Sony Playstation’s The Last of Us 2 videogame, with the track, “Through the Valley,” topping Spotify’s Global Viral Charts, while generating more than 60 million streams combined on Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube. More recently, he recorded a soulful take on Macy Gray’s Grammy-winning “I Try” for Grammy.com’s “Grammy Reimagined” series.

Shawn maintains a busy slate of performances in the U.S. and abroad. “I love touring because I want to earn what I get, work for it every day,” says Shawn, admitting that’s the hard-hat blue-collar attitude he inherited from his biological dad. “I enjoy the struggle because that’s what makes it all worthwhile.

“I enjoy meeting and talking to new people. I don’t hide in the green room before and after the show. I’m out there shaking hands, pressing the flesh, and hearing their stories. That’s the reason we do this.”

Pointing to “authentic” performers like Tom Waits (“He has an impeccable ‘no bullshit’ compass”), soul singers like Otis Redding, Sam Cooke or Bill Withers, and the old blues icons who inspired him, James explains, “They weren’t precious about what they did; they didn’t put themselves on a pedestal. I want my music to be respected, but I’ll still sit down at the bar to have a beer with you. My goal is to make music that stands the test of time.”

With The Dark & the Light, Shawn James has done just that. He has flipped the script, moving from darkness to light on the strength of song.
THE BLOOD FEUD FAMILY SINGERS
THE BLOOD FEUD FAMILY SINGERS
The Blood Feud Family Singers' debut album, "No Moon," is billed as a twelve song collection of "romantic agony and stories that ended badly before they even began." The band, who've dubbed their sound "Americana Noir," has developed a reputation for witnessing to the dark side of human nature with wit, eloquence and vigorous energy, an aesthetic vision which one reviewer described as sounding "like a spooky Old 97s" and which one cheeky fan described as "a rollicking bad time."

The BFFS formed in 2014, originally a duo consisting of guitarist Daryl Scherrer (from the post- punk band Monster May I) and bassist Marc Oxborrow (from political punk-grass darlings The Haymarket Squares). In finding personnel for the album, they wound up recruiting drummer Douglas Berry (of The Riveras) as a permanent member, and have since brought guitarist Mark Allred (also a Haymarket Square) into their fold.

“No Moon” was recorded, mixed and mastered entirely at Scherrer’s house, using free software and economy-class microphones. Of the DIY approach, Scherrer says, “Sonically, I wanted the record to stand as a testament to what a person with very limited resources can accomplish all on their own. Of course, it also stands as a testament to what a cheapskate and control freak I am. In any case, given those creative constrictions, the record sounds, I dare say, really damned good.”

About the pessimism, hostility and general darkness of The BFFS’s lyrics, Scherrer (who is the band’s chief songwriter) says, “If you want to get lofty, you could say the songs are written in a Freudian spirit—the return of the repressed. We all spend so much time and energy trying to be healthy and well-adjusted and productive people that we programmatically forget all the parts of ourselves that are pathological—the grieving, failed, broken, hateful, murderous, psychopathic faces of our personalities. Our songs are about remembering the rest of ourselves, the people we all wish we weren’t.”

Scherrer was named 2015's Songwriter of the Year by YamYum Music & Arts Magazine. "No Moon" was named the best album of 2015 by Paul Riley of Country Music People Magazine.
SHAWN SKINNER
SHAWN SKINNER
Born and raised in the desert, rooted in the landscape of the west. Sunbaked Americana.

Shawn Skinner has been playing guitar since the age of 12. After learning a few chords from his brother Scott, Shawn settled in for hours upon hours playing till his fingers rubbed raw. He mostly taught himself, but always soaked in advice from anyone who knew their way around the fret board.

At the same time, Scott, Shawn and their little sister Amber would learn to sing many of the country-western songs they heard on their father’s radio. Led by Scott, the Skinner kids (along with a few close friends) started a band. Eventually named “Wildfire”, the band’s first gig was entertaining a church pancake breakfast social. They quickly moved into local bars and nightclubs, playing anything from Merle Haggard to Alabama to Lynyrd Skynyrd. The band would make a great run, bringing the house down for the better part of nine years.

These days you can find Shawn (often joined by "The Men of Reason" - Chris Priebe on bass and Mike Soucy on drums) singing his own brand of heartache and love, struggle and faith. From telling it like it is in the song “You Better Not Miss” (a true story), to searching for solid ground in the song “Mainstay”, Shawn has come into his own as a singer/songwriter.
Venue Information:
Valley Bar
130 N. Central Ave.
Phoenix, AZ, 85004
http://www.valleybarphx.com/