Release Date: Apr 24, 2012
Record label: Important Records
Genre(s): Folk, Pop/Rock
Mysticism in its myriad forms boils down to a set of techniques that assist one in a process toward an ultimate goal: absolution, divinity, enlightenment, etc. One such technique that finds purchase across most traditions is repetition, sometimes in the form of a mantra, whispered ad infinitum, or a rosary, a prayer that involves a repeated motion but fixed form. James Blackshaw’s rippling flows of guitar and piano most commonly take this second structure.
Spend time listening to James Blackshaw, and two things should become readily apparent: that he is a phenomenally gifted musician and that his restless ambition drives him to continually redefine his sound. These characteristics have not always proven to be entirely compatible in creating a unified body of work. Few of us do anything quite as well as Blackshaw plays 12-string guitar, but by his own admission in a recent interview conducted by singer Marissa Nadler, after several brilliant albums he began to struggle to find anything new to say with the instrument.
After Bert Jansch died last year, it was easy for fans of British guitar virtuosity to become despondent. But plugging away quietly in the background to fill the gap is 30-year-old James Blackshaw - a prodigious musician who connects modern avant garde, the Robbie Bashto/John Fahey school of open-tuned, progressive guitar playing, and the Janschian tradition of British folk. An unassuming character from Hastings who tweets about his achievements in the dragon-slaying computer game Skyrim, he'd be an unlikely holder of the title of Britain's most talented and original guitarist.
James Blackshaw has long been a shining light in the world of virtuoso guitar playing. In the same way his compositions build and bloom slowly and steadily, Blackshaw has, over eight previous albums, quietly but insistently made a name for himself with his stunning, inhuman abilities on the guitar and his ability to mesh that with a knack for tone and texture, so that his albums are rarely about just virtuosity but rather about virtuosity as a road to beautiful, melodic songs. On recent records, he's pushed his musical palate past the usual acoustic playing into other realms.