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James Blackshaw - Sunshrine

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Artist: James Blackshaw

Album: Sunshrine

Label: Digitalis

Review date: Jun. 16, 2006

Though recorded during mid-February, James Blackshaw’s Sunshrine is as loaded with warmth and dappled with the golden glow the title would suggest. The album’s two tracks – cut during a single day in 2005 – see the twentysomething UK guitarist stretching his string bending into new realms of bliss.

Blackshaw is currently touring the States as part of the Imaginational Anthem tour, supporting Volume 2 of the acoustic guitar series of the same name, recently released by the Tompkins Square label. Though the album is pitched as a review of the current crop of post-Takoma pickers, many of the artists – including Christina Carter, Sharron Kraus, Jack Rose and Blackshaw himself – deserve mention as more than simple disciples of Fahey, Basho and Kottke. Blackshaw has proven himself an artist to watch out for on previous releases, and on Sunshrine he delivers his best capsule of meditative mindfuck.

While many have applauded Blackshaw’s nimble-fingered way of wandering the fretboard, his talent as a composer reaches beyond the strings of his guitar. Like Ben Chasny of Six Organs of Admittance, Blackshaw is adept at working his voodoo with a variety of other instruments, adding additional misty layers to his best songs. On Sunshrine, he embellishes his six- and 12-string work with harmonium, farfisa, bells, bowed-symbols and a variety of other noisemakers. On the title track, he eases the listener into an appropriately Zen state with a chorus of bells and soft percussion before building in a series of increasingly intricate melodies on guitar. While obviously well-versed in the techniques of his aforementioned predecessors, Blackshaw’s particular style is one of light, shimmering runs; he never ventures into the harsh, darker territories frequented by many of his contemporaries.

After the 26-minute title track, the brief closing piece “Skylark Herald’s Dawn” provides both an appropriately lovely come down and a solid snapshot of his less accentuated work. Here, picking only on a six-string, Blackshaw ends the record soft and smooth, a great soundtrack for settling dusk on a deep summer’s day.

By Ethan Covey

Other Reviews of James Blackshaw

Waking Into Sleep

The Cloud of Unknowing

Litany of Echoes

The Glass Bead Game

All is Falling

Love is the Plan, the Plan is Death

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View all articles by Ethan Covey

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