James Blackshaw has previously released nine albums of his lushly arranged virtuoso guitar finger picking. Summoning Suns is his 10th album, and this time he appears as a singer/songwriter. The arrangements are just as lush and the songs are beautiful. At times they recall giants of the genre such as Elliott Smith, Harry Nilsson and Jim O’Rourke.
Summoning Suns is available on vinyl LP and CD.
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- Summoning Suns by James Blackshaw
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I’m like Marge Simpson thinking she’s got Homer all figured out just as he delivers a bouquet of roses from the sky right now, in so far as I thought James Blackshaw was a master of instrumental American primitivism but now he’s singing sweetly over gorgeous, almost straightforward melodies. I don’t know where I am, to be honest, but I’m loving it; what if James Blackshaw was after our hearts? I’m down.
‘Summoning Suns’ opens with Blackshaw’s most cinematic address yet, his very own version of “Life In Technicolor” or even the National’s “Fake Empire” -- chiming xylophones and a pining organ, dancing around each other in the sky. Soon enough, he’s back to plucking, but for proper country tunes, the type I could easily see Alasdair Roberts making: soft, early morning tunes with a crisp, contented type of production. The piano flourishes, the guitar flits about like a cat chasing a dragonfly (is that a real thing?), the twang sounds excited, and we’re ready to welcome Blackshaw’s voice to the world.
It is very nice indeed, but it’s not just him: for these ascendent songs, Blackshaw’s joined with backing vocals that upend his modest voice, creating a feeling of community that’s never been present in his previous, more solitary works. He retreats to that world on “Failure’s Flame”, a pitch-black country tune in the vein of Jason Molina, but even here he sounds dynamic, joined with the humming vocal harmonies of Annie Nilsson. Even hearing this is exciting: we’re hearing something new, but we’re hearing him experience it too.
8/10 Penrith Steve Customer review, 31st March 2015
James Blackshaw has made a number of instrumental albums showcasing his phenomenal talent as a guitarist. With his latest offering, "Summoning Suns" he has chosen to sing a few songs for the first time. Why he's kept his singing abilities from us is beyond me as he certainly pretty good at it. "Confetti" is reminiscent of many of the tracks from "Eureka" and "Insignificance" by Jim O'Rourke, a kind of folkish soft pop. "Failure's Flame" and "Nothing Ever After" sound like outtakes from Elliott Smith's posthumous final album "From A Basement On a Hill". On the title track, Blackshaw seems to combine the O'Rourke and Smith influences to sound like, well, himself. There are a few instrumental tracks on here and "Winter Flies" is probably the most typical of his sound. "Holly" clocks in at over 12 minutes and has and open an airy feel to it. "Boo, Forever" closes the album in a style to which we have become accustomed from James Blackshaw. All in all, a pretty decent effort.
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