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A brilliant and innovative 12-string guitar player, James Blackshaw was born in 1981 in London. Another in a long string of amazing British acoustic guitar wizards, Blackshaw has been compared at various times to Bert Jansch, Davy Graham, Robbie Basho, John Fahey, Glenn Jones, Jack Rose, and Leo Kottke, among others, but his sound, often modal and based on improvising across set themes, is entirely his own. Blackshaw released several limited CD-R albums as he began his career, including 2004's Celeste and Lost Prayers and Motionless Dancers, 2005's Sunshrine, and the live Waking Into Sleep in 2006. Important Records issued O True Believers in 2006, after which Blackshaw moved to Tompkins Square Records, which released The Cloud of Unknowing in 2007 and began reissuing his back catalog (Celeste and Sunshrine both reappeared from Tompkins Square in 2008). A second Tompkins Square CD of new material, Litany of Echoes, was also issued in 2008.
Released in 2010, All Is Falling featured Blackshaw working in the studio with electric 12-string guitar for the first time. Love Is the Plan, The Plan Is Death was released on Important in 2012. It featured Blackshaw playing nylon-string guitar, piano, Hammond B-3 organ, and vibraphone. In early 2013, he collaborated with pianist and composer Lubomyr Melnyk on the album Watchers. Later that year, he was invited by Yann Tiersen to celebrate the centenary of Louis Feuillade's silent film series Fantômas. His composed a score for Le Faux Magistrat, the fifth and final film in the series, which was performed and recorded at the Théâtre de Châtelet in Paris on Halloween. Blackshaw performed the 75-minute work with guests including drummer Simon Scott (Slowdive). It was released commercially by Tompkins Square in July of 2014.
Blackshaw changed directions again for Summoning Suns, his debut as a vocalist, singing on five of its seven tracks. It was issued by Important Records in March of 2015.