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Video Premiere: Shelby Earl - James

Local Music, KEXP Premiere
Dusty Henry
photo Bebe Labree Besch

Shelby Earl's voice is a coveted gift. Google her name plus the word "heartbreaking" and you'll get endless results. With her mournful vibrato and aching howls, it's no wonder she's an artist many turn to in their most aching moments. However, that's just one facet of what Earl's capable of. On her latest album, The Man Who Made Himself a Name, she showcases just how rousing her voice and songwriting can be. Case in point: the new music video for her song "James" directed by Adam MacKinnon, a.k.a. Oscar Contender.

Whereas her music is typically labeled as "heartbreaking", Earl evolves into "heartbreaker" on "James". Throughout the song she laments the titular character, a former love she had to let go. (Earl notes to KEXP that James himself is partially inspired the motorcycle-riding Twin Peaks character of the same name). The song on its own is a powerful demonstration of Earl's bravado, but the video pushes the idea even further. James (played local drummer Andy King) downs drink after drink, sitting in a dreary room with a fireplace, while technicolor images of Earl project off of his television screen with splashes of Earl's guitarist Eric Howk (also in Portugal, The Man) stoically ripping through a haunting guitar solo. No matter what channel James flips to, Earl's always there.

It turns into a fever dream until he finally collapses drunk on the floor. Earl herself appears in the room, sitting in his place on the couch, overlooking his unconscious body while images of burning houses spiral on the TV screen. Between the song and the visuals that accompany it, we're gifted with a tenacious and ferocious version of Earl.

"The video hints at a destructive kind of love that is ultimately the downfall of one or both people involved," Earl says. "It is up to the viewer to determine who, if anyone, survives it."

Watch this exclusive premiere of Earl’s new video and then look for more music on her website and Facebook page.

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