James Blackshaw is still widely -- and rightfully -- regarded as an acoustic guitar innovator who has extended the limits of the instrument's vocabulary. But he is also much more than that. His post-classical collaborations on Litany of Echoes with violinist/violist Fran Bury and with Current 93's chamber strings on The Glass Bead Game, the multi-instrumental long-form composition that is All Is Falling, the improvised collaboration with pianist Lubomyr Melnyk on The Watchers, and his own score for Magistrat, one of the five 1913 silent films that made up the Fantômas serials, all testify to his convincing search through several musical languages.
It’s apt that James Blackshaw chooses to title a track (“Boo, Forever”) on Summoning Suns after a poem by countercultural author Richard Brautigan. Brautigan was an experimental writer, penning abstract and often humorous poetry, short stories, and novels touching on many genres including mysteries and westerns. Blackshaw, too, can’t be easily pinned down.
About 90 seconds into "Confetti", the stunning second song on James Blackshaw’s Summoning Suns, the guitarist hesitates as he begins to negotiate a particularly tricky—and, for him, rather unprecedented—passage. The first two verses have ended, a small string section has pushed the tune onto a carousel that might have suited Van Dyke Parks in his prime, and an ascendant third verse has thrust Blackshaw into a place he’s never been: a vocal hook that he has to sing himself. "The needless noise you air," he offers gently, the instrumentalist’s voice so soft and uncertain at the start of each word that he almost drops "the.