Shane Hall

West Coast blues. Americana. Funky, fuzzed-out soul. Shane Hall plays it all, rolling a wide range of inspiration into his own multi-layered sound.

It’s a diverse musical mix that shines a light not only on Hall’s guitar playing and larger-than-life voice, but on his sharply-written songs, too. That songwriting reaches a new high-water mark with West, River, and Queen, three interconnected EPs that serve as his first releases for LAW Records. Each record focuses on a different side of Hall’s musical personality. There’s West, a collection of bold, bluesy songs that mix fiery fretwork with amplified stomp. Then there’s River, a rootsy EP inspired by the acoustic music — from Appalachian folk songs to MTV Unplugged performances — that soundtracked Hall’s childhood days in Pennsylvania, before a 16-year stint in the U.S. military took him around the world. Wrapping up the trio of releases is Queen, whose songs fuse the groove and grit of soul music to the swagger of rock & roll, nodding to influences like Charles Bradley, James Brown, and the Alabama Shakes along the way. 

“I don’t think it’s possible for me to stay in one single lane,” says Hall. “I’d have a hard time only being a blues guy, or an outlaw Americana songwriter, or a soul singer, because I’m all of those things. Billy Gibbons once said you should make music that you’d want to listen to, and I listen to so many different things. I’m a blues-soul-Americana artist, so why not put all of those sounds onto my records?”

Years relocating to San Diego (where he recorded the 14 songs that comprise West, River, and Queen in two inspired days, capturing the tracks with his well-seasoned road band in a series of live takes), Hall grew up in the Rust Belt. His mother and stepfather who sang folk songs around the house, and Hall quickly fell in love with acoustic music. Before long, his tastes deepened and diversified, encompassing not only his parents’ Peter Paul & Mary records, but also the gospel music that filled his church every Sunday morning, the blues pioneers whose music inspired personal heroes like Jimi Hendrix, and the grunge songs that dominated the radio stations in his hometown of Harrisburg, PA. Once graduation came, Hall left Harrisburg for good, whisked halfway across the world as a member of the U.S. Marines. 

Italy. Iraq. Japan. Hall spent plenty of time in all three. While working for the military, he also cut his teeth as a musician, kicking things off as a solo act. He’d play coffeehouses and open mics, steadily sharpening his sound — and his guitar playing — along the way. Later, while stationed in Iwakuni, Japan, he began performing with the house band at a local bar. He was as natural frontman — a big-voiced singer who could play, too, driving the group forward with bluesy blasts of electric guitar — and before long, Hall was touring his way from military base to military base. He released a string of albums, too, including Less Than Vintage (recorded at Studio M in Hiroshima), Thick Teeth (tracked in North Carolina, not long before his move to Southern California), and Human Condition

If Human Condition, with its road-tested tracklist and proudly diverse arrangements, marked a turning point for Shane Hall, then the West River Queen project finds him officially hitting his stride. Like Human Condition, these songs were molded and perfected onstage, with Hall playing as many as six shows a week for several years in a row. And like the songs themselves, his performances have been eclectic, ranging from one-man shows to power-trio gigs to soulful, collaborative shows featuring a horn section and an eight-piece band. The West, River, and Queen EPs make good use of that versatility. There are southern-sounding ballads, country shuffles, and full-blown, fuzz-rock freakouts. There are bursts of brass and layers of coed harmonies. Tying the whole mix together is Shane Hall himself: a dynamic performer who’s built his career the old-school way, playing shows night after night, distilling his influences into a sound that’s both wide-ranging and focused. 

“I’ve found my sound,” he says, “and if I’ve gotta play bars for the rest of my life, I’ll do it. But I’ll never go back and work for the man. All the lessons I’ve learned… all the life I’ve lived… it all ties together, and I’m able to pore it back into my music. My time in the military was invaluable. My time playing shows where nobody was listening was invaluable, too, because it taught me how to be commanding onstage. With West, River, and Queen, I’m breaking down the various parts of my sound and presenting them together.”

Consider it an introduction from a man who’s sure of himself, confident with his sound, and ready to chase down his own horizons.