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      Shawn James in Washington

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      August 9, 2019

      Friday   7:30 PM

      1940 Ninth Street NW
      Washington, District of Columbia 20001

      • No Performers Listed
      Shawn James

      with Common Jack
      Shawn James voice is a force of nature, a musical preacher to a flock that acceptseveryone, a combination of the gospel choirs he sang with as a youngster and histraining 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 SonHouse, forever at the crossroads of damnation and redemption, the two inextricablywoven 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 toursmore than 150 dates around the world and has released some 70 songs over the pastfive years, both on his own and as part of his more raucous, rock band theShapeshifters, a loose group of musicians formed in Fayetteville, AR, which served ashis temporary home before a recent move to the west coast.Transcending any and all genres, James songs speak as much to these tremuloustimes as they do the eternal human condition. Steeped in mythology (the fearsome acappella which opens Orpheus) and Americas dark past (the deep delta blues ofBurn the Witch), The Dark & the Light seeks to turn despair into hope as he does onthe two-part tribute to his steel-worker father on Love Will Find a Way I and Love WillFind a Way II. Shawns father died an alcoholic when he was five and the two songsfeature a journey from the depths of despair to the heights of ecstatic communion.Shawn sings, The blood that filled his veins flows through mine/Its not that Imashamed but how can I redefine how your story ends.The records about turning the darkness and pain Ive experienced in my life into songsthat can inspire others to make the best of hard times, he says.Recorded at his new labels Venice Beach, CA, recording studio with producer JimmyMesser (AWOLNation, Kelly Clarkson, Kygo, The White Buffalo), the songs for the newalbum were written by James while back in Chicago.Ive discovered how to get to the point quicker, to do more with less, explains Jamesabout how his songwriting has evolved. Im confident enough now to make my musicmore accessible without losing its integrity and honesty.Songs like the Memphis soul of There It Is, which vows to counteract bad deeds withgood work and the deep blues of Haunted, about moving on despite the injusticearound us, both tackle the current volatile cultural climate without mentioning names ortaking sides.For a long time, I wouldnt mix music and politics, but I reached the point where Irealized I shouldnt be ashamed for speaking up, Shawn says. All the craziness iswhat 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 ourvulnerability 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 dont know where I would be right now, admits Shawn. Iwas 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 childprodigy, Shawn entered a number of vocal competitions, with a multi-octave range thatmakes him unique as an artist. He didnt start playing acoustic guitar until high schooland didnt start writing songs seriously until he was in his mid-twenties. Studyingclassical music helped him hone his vocal technique, but he learned to let looseemotionally in church. I had the mix of both worlds, he says.Much of those ministers fiery rhetoric resonated with James, whose music offers acongregation with no borders or boundaries. Ive found that my songs with the biggestimpact are the ones that inspire people, and try to lift them up, he says. Fans tell mehow these songs saved their lives. Is there any greater accomplishment than that? Ifully embraced that on this album. These days, people need encouragement, and I justwanted to contribute.The new album is James fourth solo effort, following his 2012 debut, Shadows , 2014sDeliverance and 2016s 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 Thats Life and Aint No Sunshine). His songs have beenfeatured on HBO, CBS and Sony Playstations The Last of Us 2 videogame, with thetrack, Through the Valley, topping Spotifys Global Viral Charts, while generating morethan 60 million streams combined on Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube. More recently,he recorded a soulful take on Macy Grays Grammy-winning I Try for Grammy.comsGrammy Reimagined series.Shawn maintains a busy slate of performances in the U.S. and abroad. I love touringbecause I want to earn what I get, work for it every day, says Shawn, admitting thatsthe hard-hat blue-collar attitude he inherited from his biological dad. I enjoy the strugglebecause thats what makes it all worthwhile.I enjoy meeting and talking to new people. I dont hide in the green room before andafter the show. Im out there shaking hands, pressing the flesh, and hearing theirstories. Thats the reason we do this.Pointing to authentic performers like Tom Waits (He has an impeccable no bullshitcompass), soul singers like Otis Redding, Sam Cooke or Bill Withers, and the old bluesicons who inspired him, James explains, They werent precious about what they did;they didnt put themselves on a pedestal. I want my music to be respected, but Ill stillsit down at the bar to have a beer with you. My goal is to make music that stands thetest 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.

      Cost: 15.00

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