James Blackshaw, Greg Davis & Chris Weisman | Hideout | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

James Blackshaw, Greg Davis & Chris Weisman Recommended Soundboard Critics' Picks

When: Mon., June 15, 9 p.m. 2009

Though he’s a virtuoso on the 12-string, British guitarist James Blackshaw isn’t showy about his talent: his approach, which borrows from fingerstyle innovators like Robbie Basho and John Fahey, is intricate but restrained. In pieces that have grown more structured and rigorous from one album to the next—he has an impressively large discography for someone still shy of 30—he’s developed a swirling sound that uses the patient, meticulous organization of detail to hypnotic effect. On the new The Glass Bead Game (Young God), Blackshaw attempts his most elaborate arrangements yet, enlisting guests Joolie Wood (violin, clarinet, flute) and John Contreras (cello), both Current 93 vets, as well as Lavinia Blackwall on wordless vocals. The opener, “Cross,” works Blackshaw’s fleet arpeggios and fingerpicked solos into layers of lulling, mahogany-dark strings, creating a lush, immersive mesh where his formidable technique never distracts your ear from the total effect. Black­shaw focuses on piano for two of the album’s five tracks, including the epic “Arc,” but so far his skills on the instrument are adequate only for the supplementary overdubs he added to earlier albums, not for carrying the whole weight of a song—he sounds like a low-rent Satie, and next to his fluid guitar work his piano playing feels plodding and clumsy. Given how quickly he’s evolved as a guitarist in just four years, though, I wouldn’t be surprised if he became a proper pianist in short order. Greg Davis & Chris Weisman open. —Peter Margasak

Price: $10

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