Shawn James, an American singer-songwriter born in the South Side of Chicago, is not an artist many know or have heard of. Though recently, he collaborated with popular video game studio Naughty Dog, leading to his song "Through the Valley" to be covered in "The Last of Us: Part II" by lead actress Ashley Johnson. This obviously began to garner fans to his folk, blues, and rock melodies and lyrics.
So it was surprising to hear that James would be taking a departure from his classical work—most often seen on albums such as Shadows or Deliverance—with his next album. While the album has yet to be delivered to the public, he has been releasing singles since August. Of course, only two singles have been released, "Lead The Way" and "The Devil’s Daughters." James' newest single, "The Devil’s Daughters" is a song that makes its mark on his career, but it is difficult to pinpoint the exact feel he is attempting to capture.
But it is hard not to feel something as this single begins with a pulsating thrum of the lead electric guitar, giving the song an almost heartbeat-like rhythm before soon interjecting the lyrics on top of the riff. This, for anyone familiar with James' works, is common in his songs. Hearing the main melody before the song begins is a device James uses in order to help the listener understand what the song is about and the emotional impact that the lyrics have. This song, of course, is no different.
The thrum of the guitar helps to set the faster pace of the single and gives a feeling of life to the lyrics. The lyrics themselves are symbolic and descriptive of people’s struggles with vices. While the song may not hone in on any specific vice, it delves into the idea that, though we are unable to rid ourselves of any vices, we can learn to live with them and learn how to maintain a balance in our lives. James is no rookie when it comes to lyrical symbolism, each one of his songs has some meaning behind it: some more impactful than others. Look at "The Thief and The Moon," a song which was written as a way to harken back to his fascinations with myths. So, he made his own mythology in the song. This shows how James is able to take the same devices he has used in other songs and flip them onto their heads, giving a new feeling to the song.
When comparing "The Devil's Daughters" to another track, such as "The Guardian (Ellie's Song)", it is best to look at the big differences he makes and some of the similarities. In "The Devil's Daughters", James uses his lyrics to help symbolize tougher and sometimes more emotional issues. Yet he managed to do so with faster tempo and heavy rock influences rather than with a slow tempo and somber tones. His vocals help as, in this single, his vocal range sticks to a middle to low-range as opposed to the high to mid-range of "The Guardian (Ellie's Song)". Both songs manage to capture a hauntingly beautiful quality as the vocals, lyrics, and instrumentation come together.
"The Devil's Daughters" is also very similar, yet strikingly different when compared to another track from James' history; "Through the Valley" from his 2012 album Shadows. In this newest single, James opted for the use of a heavy, thrumming electric guitar and bass, but back when he was first getting his start, he typically only used acoustic. A difference that isn't always thought about or noticed would be the ways in which James uses percussion. In "The Devil's Daughters", he opts for a full drum kit, using it to its fullest and even giving it a short spotlight moment towards the middle of the song. While in "Through the Valley" he only used a single tambourine and a bass drum. Lyrically, they both manage to capture the feeling James is going for and the vocals are mostly the same except for being a few dips lower in his earlier song.
"The Devil’s Daughters" represents a movement in James’ repertoire, but doesn’t shift the balance that he has maintained in his previous albums. The song is catchy with its rhythmic riff, chest-thumping use of the drum kit, and symbolic lyrics that are bound to get stuck in your head and cause you to sing the chorus anytime you hear it. This song definitely excites listeners for the upcoming album release and other possible singles he has planned to announce.
Featured Image: Shawn James Music
Sources: Digital Spy