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James Blackshaw - Waking Into Sleep

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Artist: James Blackshaw

Album: Waking Into Sleep

Label: Kning Disk

Review date: Mar. 5, 2007

If you’re into the recent wave of acoustic guitarists, Göteberg Sweden seems to be the place to be. Someone there is blessed with access to a good-sounding room and skilled engineer Rune Johansson, who knows how to capture both the specifics and the totality of a guitar ringing out in that space.

That someone is the people who run Kning Disk, a small label specializing in blink-and-you-miss-‘em recordings with lovely packaging. Waking Into Sleep is the third live album in a series that also includes excellent efforts by Steffen Basho-Junghans and Harris Newman, and it upholds the high standard set by previous volumes.

James Blackshaw, a relatively young Englishman, really shines here. Forced to pare back to just his 12-string and his fingers, he reveals and revels in his greatest assets – a strong melodic bent, sure execution, and most importantly the ability to coax a gorgeous sound from his guitar.

The 12-string is a potentially unwieldy and unforgiving instrument, willing to slip out of tune mid-song, but Blackshaw skillfully exploits its capacity to broadcast a rich spectrum of tones that swirl around a tune’s fundamental notes, like the eddies that swirl around the rocks in a fast-running stream. Two of the album’s four pieces come from his last studio record, O True Believers, while the others come from earlier records that are currently out of print. The set emphasizes their sonic similarity; they flow together quite easily, and it’s easy to get pulled in for the ride.

The only bump in the trip comes when Blackshaw chooses to sequence the two Believers tracks back to back, as it emphasizes how similar they are to one another. While there’s no denying his skill, he could stand to switch things up a little more often. That aside, Waking Into Sleep proves that Blackshaw, only in his mid-twenties, is a player to reckon with.

By Bill Meyer

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Find out more about Kning Disk

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