James Blackshaw

James Blackshaw


I'm incredibly pleased to announce that James Blackshaw will now be working with Young God Records for future releases of his absolutely beautiful and spellbinding music. I am - and have been for a long time - a huge fan. He's a virtuoso of the 12 string guitar, but he's anything but showy. He lays out patterns and shapes that subtly shift over time and lead you to a deeply satisfying mental state. Recently, driving around with the car stereo blasting his music I found myself inexplicably weeping. Why??? The music's not sad, or even mournful really. It's just exquisite in an ineffable way, and taps into a place, a dream place, or a pre-thought place, which each of us might recognize was always there inside of us and is suddenly revealed. Like coming home after a painful journey, I suppose...

James says the music he's working on will employ more orchestration, and possibly even singing. I can't wait to hear it...

So, his first YGR album should be out some time in the middle of '09. In the meantime, here's some info about him below, as well as a link to his myspace page (which is where the text below came from). His albums are available on the fine Tompkins Square label. Buy them immediately. Also, if you get a chance, see him live. I saw him recently at a show in Holland. Him alone, onstage, one guitar, no effects, no other accompaniment, but somehow orchestral, with billowing waves of sound flowing over and through the audience. 

- Michael Gira/YGR October '08 



Initially inspired by the guitarists of the 60’s Takoma label to teach himself fingerpicking, James Blackshaw writes long-form pieces primarily for solo 12-string guitar that are heavily influenced by minimalist composers and European classical music and which use drones, overtones and repeating patterns alongside a strong inclination for melody to create instrumental music that is both intelligent, hypnotic and emotionally charged. 

Born in 1981, Blackshaw has so far released six solo studio albums, one live recording and has also appeared on numerous compilations in the last five years. "O True Believers" (2006, Important Records/Bo’weavil Recordings), "The Cloud of Unknowing" (2007, Tompkins Square) and "Litany of Echoes" (2008, Tompkins Square) have received huge critical acclaim from printed and online publications including Pitchfork, Billboard, The Wire, The Observer, The Times, Uncut, The New York Times, Rolling Stone Magazine, Magnet and Acoustic Guitar Magazine. "The Cloud of Unknowing" was also listed as one of the 50 best albums of 2007 by The Wire (no. 24) and Pitchfork (no. 34). 

He has toured extensively in Europe, US and Japan and currently resides in Hastings, England. 


Selected Press: 

"... A veritable solo symphony that's as schooled in uncommon beauty as it is in complex 20th century composition... Blackshaw writes high drama into instrumental music with subtlety and charm, speaking on sentiments and stories without requiring a single lyric... Blackshaw seems fully settled, engaging his pieces and ideas with the unflinching belief of Tony Conrad in 1964 or Steve Reich in 1965... The Cloud of Unknowing carves out a new, peerless space altogether-- one that puts Blackshaw at the top of his class." - Grayson Currin, Pitchforkmedia.com 


"In the tradition of "American Primitive" guitarists within which he's often grouped, James Blackshaw cuts rather an odd figure. Neither American, nor primitive, nor as Litany of Echoes begins, even playing the guitar, the English musician is all about upending the expectations we might have from his instrument. Whereas kindred spirits like John Fahey and Robbie Basho looked East for their Raga-inspired guitar diversions, Blackshaw instead sounds more East-Coast: his long-distance guitar tunes recalling NY minimalism, or Sonic Youth, as arranged for chamber orchestra. Mesmerising stuff, and proof that less is often more." - John Robinson, Uncut Magazine 


"There's an indecent ease to James Blackshaw's guitar playing. His fingerpicking mantras are as melodic as a music box, gliding through dizzying tempos like clockwork... Such is the silky control he exherts over his instrument, Blackshaw often sounds more like a court harpist than a backwoods strummer." - Derek Walmsey, The Wire 


"The hypnotic arpeggios at the heart of James Blackshaw’s acoustic guitar playing reflect strong influences from outside the precincts of folk music: minimalist composers like Steve Reich and Terry Riley, and some of their precursors, like Erik Satie. Mr. Blackshaw, a British autodidact still in his mid-20s, fingerpicks his 12-string Guild with an immersive focus befitting such heady allusions. At its best, his sumptuous new album, Litany of Echoes, conveys a stark and ancient feeling, like something handed down through the ages...." - Nate Chinen, The New York Times 


"Twenty-seven-year-old Brit James Blackshaw has lately emerged as a major force in the world of instrumental guitar, his epic, austere compositions and unpretentious 12-string technique perching him somewhere between John Fahey and Robbie Basho... Downright beautiful stuff." - Jonathon Cohen, Billboard Magazine 


"The most gem-like overlooked album this year is neither hairy nor scary; rubber-necking into the great unknown isn't high in its priorities. But it is preternaturally beautiful. O True Believers by 24-year-old guitarist James Blackshaw features 10 fingers and 12 strings and, frankly, urinates all over whatever will be the Mercury Prize's token folk nominee next year. Blackshaw is British, but virtually no one has heard of him outside the US folk underground; he deserves ticker-tape parades. His style derives from the Takoma school founded by John Fahey, but that is all detail. Blackshaw's got it all: skills to hyperventilate for, and instinctual loveliness in spades." - Kitty Empire, The Observer 


"One of the best and most original instrumentalists in the new, acoustic renaissance" - David Fricke, Rolling Stone Magazine