Thu Feb 26 2009
Photograph: Shoko Ishikawa
(Le) Poisson Rouge; Wed 4
Issue Project Room; Mar 7
Listening to James Blackshaw’s albums, one pictures a grizzled old man, bearded, wise and staid—probably a Buddhist, or at the very least a hippie. The musician’s multivolume discography supports this image, especially since much of his output has been released through Tompkins Square, a smart New York label devoted to the wrinkled and deceased. Yet this Englishman will not exit his twenties for a few years to come. To watch Blackshaw perform is to scratch one’s head, as his long fingernails dance across guitar strings with a dexterity that his contemporaries apply to texting.
Blackshaw occasionally plays piano, and his most recent album, Litany of Echoes, features Fran Bury’s contributions on violin and viola. But his instrumental output is largely defined by his 12-string acoustic guitar. Blackshaw’s playing evokes self-taught folkies and classical virtuosos alike; he is a minimalist, mining repeated phrases for subtle turns and hidden depth, yet there is a complexity to almost every song. He excels at longer, lulling pieces (“Past Has Not Passed,” “Shroud”) that seem to stretch to eternity.
Blackshaw recently signed to Young God, which will release his next album, The Glass Bead Game, in the spring. But first he arrives in town for shows with opener Meg Baird, a Philadelphia singer with a similar ear for the somnambulant—two fellow sleepwalkers, colliding in the night.—Jay Ruttenberg
Buy music from James Blackshaw on BN.com | Buy it on iTunes
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