James Elk­ing­ton

Rec­om­mended this month: the fin­ger­pick­ing gui­tarist who left Bri­tain’s noise underground to flour­ish along­side Jeff Tweedy

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When, in the late ’90s, ro­mance per­suaded James elk­ing­ton to re­lo­cate from his na­tive eng­land to the US, he knew changes lay ahead. he’d un­der­es­ti­mated, how­ever, the im­pact it would make on his mu­si­cal ca­reer. As drum­mer for el­e­vate, a Lon­don noise rock act who shared his fond­ness for Slint, he had largely ne­glected play­ing his gui­tar. his ar­rival in Chicago changed this. “I’d al­ready started play­ing fin­ger-style gui­tar,” he says, “but I was aw­ful. I didn’t have any idea of what I wanted to do with it. It took com­ing to the US in my late twen­ties to get any clar­ity.”

Ac­tu­ally, it’s taken him al­most two more decades to re­fine his style, but the re­lease of his over­due solo de­but,

Win­tres Woma, con­firms his pa­tience was worth­while. Merg­ing a love of english folk with the in­flu­ences of his new home, it’s an un­clut­tered but nim­ble col­lec­tion, as likely to draw com­par­isons with nick Drake as James Black­shaw. “It does sound english,” he says, “but Amer­ica is my home, and ev­ery­thing that goes with that is go­ing to end up in the mix.”

elk­ing­ton grew up in Chor­ley­wood, “sur­rounded by na­ture, but close enough to Wat­ford and Lon­don to be able to buy the cool shit in Melody

Maker ev­ery week.” his hori­zons were first broad­ened by a 13th birth­day present, The Smiths’ Hat­ful Of Hol­low. “Marr was a huge in­flu­ence on me,” he con­fides. “I talk about him often enough that I just have to say ‘Johnny’ to most of my friends and they know who I’m talk­ing about.”

Be­fore long, he’d be­gun in­ves­ti­gat­ing the work of Marr’s hero, Bert Jan­sch – “I felt like he’d come to a lot of the con­clu­sions I’d have come to if I was a much smarter and bet­ter gui­tar player” – be­fore ex­plor­ing the cat­a­logues of Davy Graham and Martin Carthy. Years later, Chicago’s mu­si­cal com­mu­nity, in which elk­ing­ton soon found a home, would lead him back towards th­ese in­ter­ests. The first band he formed in the city, The Zincs, traded in el­e­gant in­die rock, but af­ter a while he set aside his own song­writ­ing, play­ing in­stead with Freak­wa­ter, Jon Lang­ford, Wooden Wand and, more re­cently, Jeff Tweedy, Steve Gunn, eleventh Dream Day, and Richard Thomp­son. “I still can’t be­lieve that I got to play on a record with him!” elk­ing­ton laughs.

he also cut two al­bums of gui­tar duets with nathan Sals­burg, Gram­mynom­i­nated cu­ra­tor of the Alan Lo­max Ar­chive. “Play­ing with him se­ri­ously upped my game,” elk­ing­ton admits. “ev­ery time I recorded for this new LP, some part of me was won­der­ing if he’d ap­prove.” Such con­cerns now seem re­dun­dant – though elk­ing­ton in­sists he’s much hap­pier “be­hind the scenes”, Win­tres Woma at last places him in the spot­light. hav­ing sur­vived the jour­ney from Chor­ley­wood to Chicago, ad­just­ing should be lit­tle prob­lem. “I never saw my­self mov­ing to an­other coun­try,” he smiles. “It seemed like ev­ery­thing I would ever need was in a 20-mile ra­dius of where I lived. But that all changed…” Win­tres Woma is out on Par­adise Of Bach­e­lors on June 30

“Jim can play all of the things I pre­tend to know how to play. When he plays my parts it’s like look­ing in a mir­ror that re­flects a more hand­some ver­sion of your­self…” Jeff Tweedy

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