Live from the Sonoma Beer Garden Stage
Chris James, Jenny Van West
Sonoma, CA, 95476
Chris James and the Showdowns have captured the raw energy of their celebrated live shows and put to ‘tape’ on their latest album what so many audiences have experienced from their performances: Well crafted songs that tug first at the heart and drag you to the dance floor later. The San Francisco Bay Area band brings feel good rock vibe that carries a slight edginess often reminiscent of nostalgic acts such as: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, The Eagles, and Springsteen, but with a breath of fresh smoky bar room air.
James’ rich vocals and rootsy, reflective songwriting lights the narrative of the music. He is backed by a brotherhood of long time band mates that add tasty electric guitar work, lush keyboards, and a solid organic groove to the tracks. Together they ignite the group’s ‘Americana’ Rock n’ Roll spirit and arrive resoundingly at their latest musical destination: “Somewhere Out In California.” The new full length studio effort is a natural follow up to their 2012 album: “Lucky Breaks,” which made its way onto several roots rock radio stations worldwide.
Chris James and the band challenge themselves in their songwriting, searching for the kind of songs that grab you immediately, grow on you as they become familiar, and catch you unconsciously grooving. They’re constantly looking for a feeling that's not new, but runs deep, the kind of vibe you get when well-played guitars, drums and vocal harmonies come together. With so much of today’s music being computer generated, or older hits replicated live by cover and tribute bands, it has been important for the group to stay true to themselves by offering original songs with a meaningful, organic sound.
--"James' style of writing is hard to deny as it rings of times and life situations we can all relate to. It's nice to see an artist and band like the Showdowns hold true to Americana roots while still giving you a rock and roll kick in the ass!" -Starita (President of the San Francisco Recording Academy Chapter)
--"Chris is a singer-songwriter with an honest approach and style that really speaks to everyday people..." - J. Bowman (Lead Guitarist for Michael Franti & Spearhead)
The journey of the band began with Chris James, a budding songwriter who was writing and performing acoustic songs at campfire outings, parties, and coffee houses in and around the Portland Maine area. It was those small town roots that shaped the music he still plays today, but, gaining confidence as a performer, James soon realized that he would have to look to larger cities to get recognized. He ventured to San Francisco in the late Nineties with not much more than a guitar in tow.
Chris would eventually meet up with bassist Mark Ray and current Showdowns drummer Matt Berg to form Small Change Romeos. After just a few years, the band had built a fairly large Bay Area following and were known for their diverse sound (often ranging from alt rock to heavy county to reggae) and their raucously, unpredictable live shows.
The Romeos cut 3 albums together with several line up changes over the years including the late Jess Anderson on guitar, Chris Reale, long time songwriting partner Mike Ruy, current Showdowns bassist/ backing vocalist AJ Leighton and multi-talented Showdowns keyboardist and musician John Patterson.
Songs from those records were used in TV commercial promos and are still played in rotation on XM Radio and various stations throughout California. The group was unfortunately just shy of getting distribution through Universal Music Group in 2009 and a few of the members parted ways, leaving James to pick up the pieces and build his new group: Chris James and the Showdowns.
Often jokingly said that the group should really be called “The Show-Ups,” James’ likeable songs have attracted numerous SF Bay Area musicians to join the band, recently guitar players Whitt Vicena and Rich Flynne, and it’s often a revolving door of talented players that share the stage with him.
Chris James and the Showdowns have performed hundreds of live shows in the past few years and do so with a strident energy that is an extension of their relatable songs. There is a sense of maturity in the writing that seems to get better with each new project and the flow has resonated well with fans. Along the way, Chris James and crew have also had the pleasure of sharing the stage, and/or the recording studio with a few notable artists including members of Michael Franti and Spearhead, Tesla, and Starship.
--"James is as captivating a performer as I have seen in some time. His songs are well crafted, his energy on stage is contagious, and the truth in his lyrics is undeniable.” -Ralph Graceffa (Singer Songwriter)
Jenny Van West
With a crystalline voice that has been characterized as “somewhere between Aimee Mann and Bonnie Raitt,” singer-songwriter Jenny Van West has just released her new album of original songs Happiness to Burn (April 2018) to international critical acclaim. For the new album, producer Shane Alexander assembled a dream team of LA’s top musicians: Jesse Siebenberg / lap steel, pedal steel, dobro, (Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real), Carl Byron (Jackson Browne), / piano, organ, accordion; Ted Russell Kamp (Shooter Jennings) / bass, Justine Bennett / vocals (Jacob Dylan, Adam Cohen), Austin Beede (Grateful Shred, Todd Hannigan) drums.
Winner of the 2015 Maine Songwriters Association songwriting contest (“Nellie”) and a finalist in 2017 (“Happiness to Burn”), Van West released her first album Something Real in 2015 and the EP Honey & Hive in 2016, both produced by Ed DesJardins in Readfield, Maine.