KUAF Audio Advance: Shawn James and the Shapeshifters' "The Bear"

-By Katy Henriksen

The unabashed soulful velocity of Shawn James’ music reaches depths seemingly impossible for someone who hasn’t yet reached the age of 30. Born on the south side of Chicago in 1986 to what he describes as a “hard-working, kind mother and a gambling, abusive, drunk father,” he’s always been drawn to the transformative power of music. Though he only recently began calling Fayetteville home, he’s found many collaborators in these hills to create a confessional deep soul-blues-twang for a trilogy of EPs being released as Shawn James and the Shapeshifters throughout 2013.


The Bear was the second release in the trilogy, and was a part of our new series “Audio Advances.” Self-described as having “an old, rowdy, blues sound with swampy, slide guitar,” the album features Nick Shoulders (harmonica and banjo), Baker (banjo and mandolin), Jason Norton (bass) and others. Shawn James and the Shapeshifters officially released The Bear June 15 at George’s Majestic Lounge in Fayetteville.  You can hear or buy the album at Shawn James's page on Bandcamp.

Also worth mentioning, James stopped by KUAF’s Firmin-Garner Performance Studio in February along with bandmates Shoulders and Baker, to play a short set. His cover of John Legend’s “Who Did That To You,” captured on video by Anna Hutchison of Spring Street Portraits, now boasts more than 140,000 views on YouTube.