Release Date: Jun 30, 2017
Record label: Paradise of Bachelors
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
The journey from sideman to the center of the stage is longer and harder than it looks, and it's not for everyone. An amalgam of skill, swagger and certainty helps to straighten the path along the way. Who knows how long James Elkington has longed to make his debut solo LP, but one thing is for sure: the sideman role has been very kind to the Chicago-based guitarist in recent years.
I t's perverse to release an album in midsummer with a title that means "the sound of winter" in old English, but James Elkington has created a convincing, warmly whirling weather system of his own here. Elkington is an ex-noise/indie-rocker from the M25 commuter belt who has long lived in Chicago; here, he fell in love with Bert Jansch's intricate fingerpicking figures and mastered them gamely (since then he has worked with Richard Thompson and local heroes Wilco). His guitar is the best thing on this record, sound eddying through the title track like pools of bright water, filling out solid folk-influenced songs such as Any Afternoon.
A regular, if somewhat under-the-radar presence on the Chicago scene, British-born guitarist/vocalist James Elkington makes fluid, harmonically layered folk that draws on the progressive style pioneered in the '60s and '70s by artists like Bert Jansch and John Fahey. It's a style he previously investigated alongside fellow guitarist Nathan Salsburg on several albums and which found him working as a sideman for respected rock luminaries including Jeff Tweedy and Richard Thompson. It's also a sound he spotlights on his evocative, gorgeously rendered debut album, 2017's Wintres Woma.
On Wintres Woma, guitarist James Elkington reemerges at age 46 as an acoustic fingerpicking hero with a proper solo debut--an album that is at once beautiful, complex, and assured. Where plenty of guitarists have rediscovered themselves in the transition from electric bands to acoustic-minded singledom, such as Pelt's Jack Rose and Cul de Sac's Glenn Jones, Elkington stands apart among the wave of 21st century guitar soloists. This kind of reinvention has typically involved an embrace of John Fahey's school of American Primitivism.
Fans of the new wave of trad-folk are no doubt familiar with the music of James Elkington, even if they've never heard his name. The London transplant cut his teeth in the Chicago Thrill Jockey scene, moving his band the Zincs to the city before collaborating on projects with Tortoise's Doug McCombs, Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and Steve Gunn. He followed that up by releasing an album with Louisville musician Nathan Salsburg.
James Elkington – Wintres Woma With his CV recently enriched with creditable guest spots on records from Richard Thompson, Steve Gunn, Freakwater and Michael Chapman as well as via full-blown membership of Brokeback and a rejuvenated Eleventh Dream Day, Chicago-dwelling English émigré James Elkington has plenty to be proud about as the consummate collaborator's collaborator. However, Elkington has now returned to scratch his own singer-songwriter itch for seemingly the first time since 2013's alluring Waterdrawn (his second LP with Freakwater’s Janet Beveridge Bean under The Horse's Ha duo alias). Such a rapprochement with this side of his muse is more than welcome on the warming Wintres Woma.