Dig and Discover: James Blackshaw - Litany of Echoes
Artist: James Blackshaw
Album: Litany of Echoes
Label (Year): Tompkins Square (2008)
For Fans of: Steve Reich, Robbie Basho, Martin Simpson
Words by Gummo Clare
James Blackshaw is the phenomenal twelve-string guitarist, who, despite his relatively young age, has been prolific, releasing many solo albums and collaborating with other well-respected groups such as Current 93. This album, unlike his earlier albums which were rooted in American folk, clearly draws very heavily on the music of minimalist composers such as Terry Riley and Steve Reich.
Blackshaw uses his skills as a fingerpicking guitarist to great effect on this album, playing complex repetitive phrases that subtly shift to create expansive soundscapes that are totally immersive. Every track is fantastic, with ‘Echo and Abyss’ and ‘Infinite Circle’ standing out for me. The album is best listened to as a whole though, with solo, looped piano pieces at either end giving the album a clear narrative arc. While piano and cello are used effectively on a couple of pieces, Blackshaw’s playing sits centre stage throughout, and rightly so. His label describes the album as ‘unashamedly sentimental’, and I don’t think I’ve come across a purely instrumental album with as much emotional depth as Litany of Echoes.