James Blackshaw - All is Falling - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

James Blackshaw - All is Falling

by James Bray Rating:7 Release Date:2010-08-23

Over the past five years James Blackwell has established himself as one of Britain's foremost acoustic guitar players. His music often gets lauded with such adjectives as 'organic' and 'spiritual' and he is occasionally compared to virtuoso folk guitarist, Bert Jansch. However, his compositions are even more meditative than those of Jansch and what's more, on this record, his piano playing is also integral to the music that he creates. On All is Falling, Blackshaw plays electric guitar for the first time but the amplification is restrained and he maintains the high standard of music that he set on such albums as last year's The Glass Bead Game.

Once Blackshaw has a melody, he plays with it and explores its permutations and variations. Most of the pieces on this largely instrumental album are built on a simple melody that repeats throughout the song. This creates a kind of musical mantra as well as giving Blackshaw a canvas to work on. The other harmonies that he layers on to the songs with 12 string guitar and piano elaborate and vary the main theme. His approach to the music creates a kind of natural crescendo which builds organically and provides an intonation of the rapture that is fundamental to the musical experience; his approach to music is definitely that of discovering harmonies rather than composing them and this in itself is inherently spiritual. You can imagine the pagans of Arcadia, under a harvest moon, dancing around fires to music like this. These slightly medieval connotations come from Blackwell's guitar which can often sound a bit like a lute, but his compositions are more subtle and less repetitious than the music that contemporary media leads us to associate with Shakespeare or, ahhmm, Robin Hood. Although his guitar playing is technically brilliant, it never becomes mechanical or ponderous; he maintains a melodious and ethereal aesthetic throughout.

What will immediately strike you when listening to these atmospheric and evocative pieces of music is that they sound like the sound track to a film; perhaps for some existential west-country thriller, if such a film exists. However, Blackshaw's dynamic music is much more orchestral than that of many film scores and perhaps, has more in common with classical music. His superior minstrelling allows him to transcend the wooliness that typifies a lot of mo-folk. All s Falling is a welcome addition to Blackshaw's already impressive back catalogue of guitar-based, symphonic incantation.

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