James Blackshaw

O True Believers

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    8
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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.

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