Music is better when it’s honest. It’s better when it’s raw. It’s better when it tells a story that draws you in and makes you a part of it. If these were the things Shawn James was trying to accomplish with fourth studio album “The Dark & the Light,” well, he knocked it out of the park.
James, a northwest Arkansas transplant who grew up on Chicago’s south side, gets in touch with his roots on the album, combining elements of gospel, blues, rock, R&B and folk, to product an elegant and powerful set of music that may be his best effort yet.
We’ve always thought James has written really strong tunes, and this record is no exception. On “The Dark & the Light,” you’ll find him drawing upon his experiences and touching on topics like love, loss, heartbreak and trauma and his journey.
On tracks like opener “Orpheus,” James traces through an experience that proves that love can help overcome any obstacle, including death. On the absolutely gorgeous two-part suite “Love Will Find a Way” parts I and II, he gets personal, reflecting on his thoughts about the death of his father, who died from alcoholism when James was young. He also laments the current state of things in society, along with its past and future, on the haunting “Burn the Witch.”
The entire record takes you along a similar path, and the one constant is James’s exquisite voice. It’s on “The Dark & the Light” where once again he shows off his incredible range both vocally and from a storytelling standpoint.
In the end, we think James finds redemption and peace from his trouble and we think he’s teaching us to learn how to do the same. James is currently touring to promote “The Dark & the Light” and will play George’s Majestic Lounge on April 8.
Album Artwork by Lucas Ruggieri Illustration.