James Blackshaw: Waking Into Sleep
Kning Disk

Recorded live in concert on the 27th of May, 2006 in Göteborg, Sweden, Waking Into Sleep is a convincing testament to James Blackshaw's technical command and compositional artistry. The young Englishman plays 12-string acoustic guitar on four pieces, ranging from eight to sixteen minutes, where composition and improvisation meld seamlessly into one. “Sunshrine” opens the disc, a sixteen-minute travelogue that segues between episodes of strumming to Eastern-flavoured curlicues of bright picking. Sonically the results are glorious with Blackshaw generating multi-layered spirals that repeatedly dazzle. The brightly ringing tone of the guitar can sometimes resemble a banjo, a quality that arises during the bluesy countrified picking of “Celeste I.” “Transient Life in Twilight” starts leisurely before picking up speed and rushing headlong and then, just as abruptly, returns to the meditative pace with which it began, after which Blackshaw's intricate fingerpicking style gets a strong workout in the lulling closer “Spiralling Skeleton Memorial.” Never once does the listener wish the guitarist were accompanied by others, so full and rich is the sound his instrument produces, and the ease with which he modulates tempo and volume throughout captivates all by itself. In short, a mesmerizing portrait of Blackshaw's phenomenal talent.

May 2008