If talent is handed out by God then James Blackshaw must have been near the front of the queue.

James Blackshaw - The Glass Bead Game

By Jeff Perkins —

Published: May 26, 2009

If talent is handed out by God then James Blackshaw must have been near the
front of the queue.

Having said that, no matter how vital natural talent is, it isn’t
everything. You then need to combine it with totally committed devotion,
dedication, and an all consuming passionate drive. Then, and only then, can
you even contemplate releasing an album like this.

Michael Gira is the man who, as head of Young God Records, had the vision to
bring Devendra Banhart to a wider world, myself included. Now he has added
the remarkable James Blackshaw to the label.

The first album on the label is this, The Glass Bead Game. Consisting of
five exquisitely performed pieces, it is a work of extraordinary beauty and
Somehow though, James makes it all sound so damned effortless and yet anyone
who has ever picked up a wooden box with six or, in James’s case, twelve
strings stretched across it’s face will know, it is anything but.

His journey to this point has been just as remarkable. He was at one time a
player with punk bands in England. Then he heard the likes of John Fahey and
Robbie Basho and to put it in a clichéd way, it changed his life.

I have visions of a young punk locking himself in his bedroom with his
guitar as his only companion. With food being pushed under the door, he
remains unseen and many years later he re-emerges blinking into the light
once again. He picks up the guitar and behold he can play like a Young God.
That is, actually, pretty close to the truth.

This incredibly beautiful album is his latest in a line of solo releases
that has seen his reputation growing steadily as the word of his work
spreads. In 2004 he released Celeste and followed that with Lost Prayers And
Motionless Dances.

Sunshrine arrived in 2005, O True Believers and Waking Into Sleep both
followed in 2006. The Cloud Of Unknowing in 2007 led the way for last year’s
album Litany Of Echoes. 2009 brings us The Glass Bead Game.

The accolades have literally poured in with the likes of Billboard, Rolling
Stone, Uncut, Pitchfork, The Times, The New York Times, and The Observer
tripping over themselves to find adequate descriptions of his music. It is a
position that I now find myself in having listened to The Glass Bead Game.