FolkWorld #45 07/2011
© David Hintz

In Fingerstyle

James Blackshaw |

James Blackshaw @ Rock N Roll Hotel, Washington DC, April 22, 2011.

I have heard of this fine UK-based fingerstyle guitarist, but had not heard any of his music. And the first surprise for me was that his style is based much more on American guitarists like John Fahey, Jack Rose, and the lighter side of Ben Chasney. Although he was no doubt influenced by the senior circuit of UK guitarists, I did not get the wild feel of a Davy Graham or the traditional feel of the others (not that they were without plenty of US blues style in their music).

But aside from trying to detect the influences on the notes, I easily got into the spirit of his music. The notes from his 12-string acoustic came fluidly with an assertive finger-style playing. He had one of the deeper bass string sounds that I have heard from an acoustic guitar. The songs were long, in fact he played only four of them in his 35-minute set and there wasn't a whole lot of chatter between songs. Just deep, serious playing that the small crowd really got into--especially the guy that yelled "shut the fuck up" at a noisy couple at the bar behind the crowd.

A nice set, and a good warm-up for me before the Michael Chapman set tomorrow.

Michael Chapman |

Michael Chapman @ Fourth Annual Avant-Fairfax Festival, April 23, 2011.

I was excited to see one of the greats of the UK finger-style guitar scene finally after all these years. I actually own some of Chapman's test pressings that I acquired on the collector's market some years ago. And of course, I have loads of released vinyl and CDs of this eclectic performer.

He is a bit similar to Roy Harper and John Martyn with all kinds of styles and an independent spirit to play whatever he wants. But tonight, it was a six-string guitar and voice. And that was plenty. I was amazed at how adept and skillful his playing was at 70 years of age. I did not detect any slippage and his ability to stir up emotion with deft, dynamic touches was astounding.

I knew I would enjoy seeing him, but did not expect it to be at this high level. His finger picking, slide work, harmonics were all subtle but strong. He had that old deep bluesy voice of his and had a nice sense of humor as well. He had a funny story about "Fahey's Flag" and then added that it was a pastiche of John Fahey. "Pastiche is French for piss take".

The room was overflowing with a very ecstatic crowd, some of which knew little of his history. But they knew great music when they heard it and it was going on here.

First published @

Photo Credits: (1) James Blackshaw, (2) Michael Chapman (from websites).

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