James Blackshaw: Celebration In A Minor Key

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Self-taught fingerstyle guitarist James Blackshaw, 27, comes to the 12-string guitar with a beautifully clean sound. courtesy of James Blackshaw hide caption

itoggle caption courtesy of James Blackshaw

Thursday's Pick

  • Song: "Past Has Not Passed"
  • Artist: James Blackshaw
  • CD: Litany of Echoes
  • Genre: Folk/Classical

The fingerstyle-guitar renaissance of the last five years has produced some phenomenal talents, most notably those showcased in the three-volume-strong Imaginational Anthem series. The many diverse talents include Jack Rose and Ben Reynolds, but 27-year-old James Blackshaw has come to the fore. And while anyone playing guitar soli is bound to be compared to John Fahey, the self-taught Blackshaw comes to the 12-string guitar with a beautifully clean sound and a structure more like that of Terry Riley.

On his sixth album, Litany of Echoes, Blackshaw flexes his compositional muscles more than ever by slowly building each song, piece by piece. "Past Has Not Passed" doesn't begin with Blackshaw, but rather with the sawing drones of violinist/violist Fran Bury. Her strings shift tones ever so slightly, compressing ghosts in midair, and Blackshaw soon joins to pick a sorrowfully sparse theme. Just when everything taut seems ready to snap, that theme takes its full shape five minutes in. Blackshaw's 12 strings sound like double that as they circle around Bury's soaring melody, now accompanied by piano, and the track becomes a celebration in a minor key. It's a remarkable exercise in dynamic restraint that repeats figures in unexpected ways.

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Litany of Echoes

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Litany of Echoes
James Blackshaw
Tompkins Square

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