It’s been far too long since we’ve heard from James Blackshaw. A brilliant guitarist and pianist, albums like 2007’s The Cloud of Unknowing and 2015’s Summoning Suns positioned him among peers like Jack Rose, Ben Chasny, and Steve Gunn—a player with strong roots in the guitar soli tradition, but interest in expanding its horizons. In 2016, he announced an indefinite hiatus from music, noting the stresses of touring and relying on performances to pay the bills. And while it sadly hasn’t gotten easier for musicians in 2019, Blackshaw is back. And how—his new composition, “Why Keep Still?”, released as part of Adult Swim’s Singles series, is a true winner. There’s more than a little cosmic pastoral in its gentle acoustic guitar stroll, but Blackshaw augments the rolling vibe with piano figures that recall Satie one minute and woozy barroom plinking the next. A welcome return and auspicious first taste of more music to come. words / j woodbury
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