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james blackshaw live review

ameliasmagazine.com (UK) / no author listed

London-based 12-string guitarist, James Blackshaw, is known for his compositions possessing of a subtle complexity beyond his twenty something years.

ameliasmagazine.com (UK)

http://www.ameliasmagazine.com/music/james-blackshaw-a-live-review/2009/10/2
0/

James Blackshaw – A Live Review
Hanbury Ballroom, Brighton

Tuesday October 20th, 2009 12:46 pm



London-based 12-string guitarist, James Blackshaw, is known for his
compositions possessing of a subtle complexity beyond his twenty something
years. The Hanbury Ballroom inspires a hushed reverence as you enter and
provides the perfect setting to showcase Blackshaw’s talents. The Ballroom
may be not as grand as it sounds but there’s certainly an aura of opulence
that prevails. Fitting then for tonight’s solemnization of sound, although
this transpires to be far from any freak-folk shindig you might expect. Both
Blackshaw and Mat Sweet of Boduf Songs are Englishmen recording for revered
American labels who both make music often tagged ‘folk’ but there’s a world
of difference between them and it made for a compelling performance.



Boduf Songs take the stage as the Ballroom begins to fill out nicely. The
first time I heard Mat Sweet’s music was a few years ago on his debut for
Kranky Records. A largely acoustic affair, interspersed with field
recordings, which I expected the same of tonight. Instead, Sweet wields a
Fender Jaguar with quietly vicious intent. The set is tense and seethes with
the same bottle-up-and-explode bitterness as Elliott Smith. Sweet’s hushed,
melodic vocal inflection belies the inherent darkness of his music,
punctuated by sparse, minimalist percussion. His ostensibly fragile sound
design is disconcerting and eerie like the ominous, quiet rumble of summer
thunder. By the time he’s finished, I’m exhausted, in a good way.



James Blackshaw is well on his way to attaining cult status as evidenced by
the packed audience and move to Young Gods Records. My only qualm with his
recent album, The Glass Bead Game, is that it often drifts into
coffee-table-lit, augmented as it is by tremulous vocals, strings and
cascading pianos. Tonight, Blackshaw plays unaccompanied and loose. In this
context, his new material is imbued with passion and urgency. Cross becomes
something akin to a wordless incantation as Blackshaw shreds his 12-string
with dexterous and delirious abandon. As Bled plays out in its entire slo-fi
splendour, it aches and yearns on ascent to the ballroom’s painted upper
limits. Indeed, it’s in this sweaty, spontaneous setting where Blackshaw
works best. Here’s hoping he suffuses the subsequent solo works with this
kind of relentlessness. After all, it’s obvious this talented artist will be
gifting the world plenty more albums.

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