James Blackshaw

Young acoustic shaman in rare stateside appearance

PREVIEW Those seeking musical majesty need to acquaint themselves with the 12-string acoustic guitar playing of James Blackshaw, a Londoner and, at 25, one of an ever-expanding set of John Fahey acolytes. Fahey expanded the purview of folk-blues structures in his 1960s and '70s prime to accommodate a roving interest in sundry classical forms. The journeying compositions stood apart from the contemporaneous folk revival but immediately attracted disciples, notably Fahey's Takoma labelmates Leo Kottke, Robbie Basho, and Mark Fosson.

Of the current crop of acoustic shamans, Blackshaw is perhaps the most fluid player and the most frankly transcendental in his musical themes. His song titles are indicative of this mood: "Transient Life in Twilight," "Spiraling Skeleton Memorial," "Stained Glass Windows," and so on. He's already the owner of a longish discography — three out-of-print early releases are soon to be reissued by Tompkins Square — and his spiral jetty compositions flurry forth with transposed phrases and delicately twisting tempos. The recordings have a pantheistic quality in their detailed sensuousness, a glistening shimmer that begs comparison as much to Terry Riley and My Bloody Valentine as to Fahey and Peter Walker.

Blackshaw has pursued Eastern-tinged, droning passages with increasing frequency over his past two albums, O True Believers (Important, 2006) and The Cloud of Unknowing (Tompkins Square, 2007), and if these segments are less immediately successful than his Gregorian guitar mode, it's still gratifying to hear the young talent pushing his limits. The Cloud of Unknowing caps its culminating steel-string swirl with a protracted bout of nail-biting strings, not unlike the effect that closes the Beatles' "A Day in the Life." It sounds like a promise of things to come, a sonogram of the great depths underlying Blackshaw's placid surfaces. Catch the guitarist in the flesh in a rare stateside appearance, in support of guitar guru Sean Smith's Eternal (Gnome Life) record release.

JAMES BLACKSHAW With Sean Smith and the Present Moment, Spencer Owen, and Colossal Yes. Wed/6, 9 p.m., $10. Cafe du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. (415) 861-5016, www.cafedunord.com

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