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O True Believers

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Album Review

James Blackshaw both plays and writes with a maturity and inventiveness that belie his youth (he recorded this album at 23). There are few 12-string guitar players his age who would dare to attempt a full-length, all-instrumental acoustic solo album, and even fewer who could carry it off if they tried. But Blackshaw does it in style, and does it all by himself. The album's four tracks include some multi-tracking, and Blackshaw varies the musical texture by adding Indian elements (tanpura and harmonium on "The Elk with Jade Eyes") and percussion ("O True Believers"), but the dense center of his music is the guitar itself, fingerpicked in a rolling, glistening style that sometimes brings to mind Robbie Basho and at other times John Fahey. While his music conveys moments of dark mournfulness and of spiky irritability, the overwhelming feeling this album communicates is one of subdued but very real joy. The music is generally tonal and harmonically straightforward, and it is one testament to his startling gifts as a composer that it's almost impossible to tell when Blackshaw is improvising and when he's performing prewritten music.


Born: 1981 in London, England

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '00s, '10s

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...
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O True Believers, James Blackshaw
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