He has brought us many laughs. Now we can cry along to James and the Shame’s debut album “Human Overboard”

HUMAN OVERBOARD Cover Art (credit: Greg Newbold)

I don’t think it’s true. I’m not asking you to agree. I’m just asking you to believe…

~ James and the Shame | Human Overboard

James and the Shame has just released their first full length album, Human Overboard, On 23 September 2022. James and the Shame is the solo project of Rhett James McLaughlin, the co-host of “Good Mythical Morning”. Rhett hosts the show on YouTube with Link Neal. The duo has enjoyed success on the platform bringing some much needed light hearted comedy to the masses. Check out the episode “Good Mythical Morning – Fast Food Ad vs. Yelp Review Taste Test” for the album announcement and Rhett stuffing his face with a selection of McDonalds’ burgers.

In a departure from his normal comedy tunes, Rhett has taken a more serious approach in his album, Human Overboard. He explores topics such as moving across the country, watching his children grow up, family, righteous anger and love. Let’s have a listen to the album and see what Rhett and his wonderful hair have served up for us this Fall. 

Believe Me” first hits our ears with guitar, drums and a classic crystal clear and dreamy slide guitar. The sound production of the entire album is fantastic and has soundscapes with many influences, from The Eagles to Johnny Cash, but all with a modern spin that is unmistakably influenced by the sound of Nashville country music. 

You say my heart was never true

That might say more ’bout you

The song explores the frustration of communicating with others your decisions in life and how oftentimes those we care about don’t listen to what we are trying to say. Our singer isn’t attempting to justify his decisions to others but simply asking them to believe what he says. Speaking the truth is clearly important to him and this theme will come up again throughout the album. 

The second track we are treated to comments on the ego over a slightly swung beat.  In “Flash of Rationality,” Rhett sings about how he is doing things his way and how he used to think he was smart. We are given the sense that in the past Rhett used to do things his own way but now he is trying to teach himself humility. 

Sometimes I start to think I might be pretty smart

Then I up and meet somebody who really is

In the achievement of success it is easy to be overcome by pride and ego. Yet in a flash of rationality or a humbling experience it is possible to improve oneself in a healthy way. Or as we hear “Trying to learn to say ‘I don’t know’.”

Coming in with a more upbeat jam, “Give a Damn” finally gives us a banjo playing along with the guitars and adding that signature country twang. Rhett explores the journey one undertakes in self defining beyond the things that you were taught growing up.

I grew up and read some stuff

Outside the good book

Shaken to my very core

I took another look

Sorry” dials back the tempo and cranks up the slide guitars. This song speaks with an apologetic voice as we hear about Rhett’s thoughts about leaving his parents . The struggle that he went through to try and conform to the coloring book of his life is especially highlighted in the verses. We are left with the tragic disconnection of creed and love as our dear singer moves on to find his own truth in spite of the guilt he feels. 

But that old undying truth

Says that I won’t join you

Because I could not hold to the creed

And now a love song! Dare we say that Rhett has written an instant classic with this track? “Where We’re Going” tells the tale of two people trying to make sense of the world. Rhett’s wife Jesse joins him on this track and the harmonies are angelic. The couple tells the tale of their love and how in spite of their journeys through life they will always be dedicated to each other and their family. 

I don’t know where we’re going

But I know I want you to go with me

Also we highly recommend that you check out the music video for this track. It’s very cute. 🙂 

Creek and Back” is a melancholy song that opens up with a soft guitar and piano duet. The track grows in dynamics throughout the song and adds drums and sparse orchestral elements. Rhett was inspired to write this song based on the experiences of raising his children. Rhet reflects on his childrens’ lives and the uncertainty of fatherhood. However the track isn’t all melancholy. There is also the joy of seeing your children grow up to become their own person. 

The secret I probably should not tell

Is that I still feel like a kid myself

Rhett digs deep in “Only Thing.” When changing your beliefs there is an accompanying change in one’s outlook on life. This track explores the uncertainty of leaving behind the things that you used to believe. Here Rhett  misses the certainty of “knowing” what life is all about. The uncertainty of the unknown is omnipresent in this track with its soft acoustic guitar and layered electric guitar parts. This song pairs perfectly with a nighttime drive while reflecting on one’s life. 

Sometimes I miss that feeling of having it figured out

Have to fight that temptation to know what life’s all about

Rhett sings his highest and lowest notes on this next cut. “Kill a Man” is a dark blues influenced track that describes the righteous anger of wanting to dispense justice. Revenge is a bittersweet subject and the instrumentals match the vibe of the vocals perfectly. As the instrumentals explode through the bridge, we hear the sound of a soul leaving the body amidst the ethereal vocals. 

He had it coming for way too long

Only thing he does right is doing wrong

Rhett brings us a serious protest song with “In Vain.” This track ponders what it actually means to use a name “in vain”. It is a critique of many issues present in modern organized religion. He calls out people who pray to god for their own selfish reasons and questions who is really using the lord’s name in vain. 

So much done in Jesus name

Seems to me to be a goddamn shame

Continuing the theme from In Vain, Rhett delivers a softer take on what the words of the good book mean in “Fruit.”  By this point in the album our singer seems tired of having to explain himself so he cuts to the root of the issue. He suggests that we bring back the music and the love that the carpenter talked about in the good book.

He said let the children come to me

But you just watched as they were torn from their families

Throughout the verses the message is loud and clear. What does it matter what you believe if you are going to allow your community to sit idly by while their neighbors suffer?

The album closes out with Rhett going through “Old Letters.” He reflects on what those letters used to mean to him. At this point in life, Rhett has fundamentally changed into a different person. The gentle folk instrumentals reinforce the regrets of people growing apart.

Photo Credit: Anna Webber

All I can say is that I changed

It was just like you to stay the same

If you’ve made it this far and haven’t listened to Human Overboard, by James and the Shame, are you really living life? Go give it a listen and a cry where appropriate.

Dom Author
Musician, Bass extraordinaire
Dom Author
Musician, Bass extraordinaire

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