James Elkington
Wintres Woma

Tracklist:

A1. “Make It Up” 3:19
A2. “Hollow in Your House” 3:18
A3. “Wading the Vapors” 4:05
A4. “Grief Is Not Coming” 2:50
A5. “When I Am Slow” 2:53
A6. “The Parting Glass” 1:33
B1. “The Hermit Census” 3:40
B2. “Greatness Yet to Come” 4:55
B3. “Sister of Mine” 3:42
B4. “My Trade in Sun Tears” 3:25
B5. “Any Afternoon” 4:54

 

Or support via:  Bandcamp  (LP/CD/digital) |  Other Options (LP/CD/digital/streaming) | Local Record Stores

 

Pre-Order Details

Contingent on manufacturing details, we will ship your album approximately a week in advance of the June 30, 2017 worldwide release date. All pre-orders include an immediate 320k MP3 download of lead single Make It Up,” as premiered by The Fader, who describe Elkington as “The guitar king … already a visionary in his own right.” Pre-order customers will be entered into a drawing for a test pressing and PoB t-shirt.

For digital-only preorders, please visit Bandcamp (which also offers uncompressed, high-resolution audio files) or your favorite digital marketplace.

N.B.: To celebrate the release of Wintres Woma, James Elkington & Nathan Salsburg’s Ambsace (PoB-021) is now on sale for $15 LP/$10 CD/$23 LP+CD/$5 MP3.

 

Album Narrative

Drawing from British folk, avant-rock, and jazz traditions alike, Wintres Woma—Old English for “the sound of winter”—is James Elkington’s debut solo record, but you’ve likely heard his masterful guitar playing and arranging, even if you didn’t realize it. Elkington (an Englishman living in Chicago) is an inveterate collaborator who brings his lyrical compositional and improvisational sensibilities to any group. He has toured as a band member, recorded, and/or collaborated with Jeff TweedyRichard ThompsonSteve GunnMichael ChapmanJoan ShelleyNathan Salsburg and Brokeback, to name just a few of his many enthusiastic admirers. His assured album, recorded at Wilco’s Loft, is baroquely detailed and beautifully constructed, featuring both his baritone vocals and some of Chicago’s finest, including Tomeka Reid.

 

 

Somewhere around 2011, James Elkington stopped writing songs. He had been the leader of a band called The Zincs; a partner in a band called The Horse’s Ha; and had released an album of guitar duets with his friend Nathan Salsburg, but the question of what this British-born-but-Chicago-based musician was going to do next loomed large, and he didn’t feel as if he had much to say.

A change is as good as a rest and, being a natural collaborator, an immediate answer was to start playing in other people’s bands. As both musician and arranger he commenced to work with Richard Thompson, Jeff Tweedy, Steve Gunn, and Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier and, after a few years, found that contributing his energies to the music of others had somehow returned to him the energy for his own. Part of that renewed creative vitality came from exploring the acoustic guitar in a new tuning (in which he wrote all the songs on Wintres Woma) and, cashing in on downtime from his touring schedule, by working assiduously to hone both guitaristic and lyrical techniques.

Wintres Woma is Old English for “the sound of winter,” a phrase that Elkington found appealing when he encountered it in a book about the historical English imagination. It seemed to resonate in both the sound of his new compositions—the icy limpidity of the arrangements, the snowy tumble of guitars and strings—and with his gnawing consideration of how much cultural upbringing brings to bear on one’s own creativity if given half a chance.

Elkington was brought up in England during the ’70s and ’80s—a time when traditional and acoustic music was largely shunned in favor of the new wave (to which his largely-destroyed copy of The Fall’s Perverted By Language will attest)—but found after his first forays into songwriting that some semblance of the folk music vernacular had crept in and wouldn’t leave. On the advice of a friend he started to investigate his own musical heritage, and that investigation began to inform both his outlook and his output.

Elkington’s music, however, is anything if retroactive, and anything if folk music:

“It’s not folk music,” he asserts. “I may use the mechanics of folk music to put across my own ideas at times, but it really doesn’t fall into any specific community or songwriterly tradition. The album’s lyrics do seem to have a preoccupation with unseen powers at work and other dimensions, both of which seem to show up in traditional English music, but it’s based on my own experience and understanding, not anyone else’s.” These lyrics contend particularly with the continuing strangeness of living in a different country: “For the most part it’s very liberating, but England is old, and there is a weird energy that comes from that country, an energy that doesn’t seem to feel the same in America. It took me moving away from home to feel it at all. I was so used to it that I didn’t know I was feeling it until I didn’t feel it anymore.”

Wintres Woma was recorded at Wilco’s studio, The Loft, in a five-day sprawl with engineer Mark Greenberg. Elkington played and arranged all the instruments, with the exception of upright bass from Nick Macri, percussion from Tim Daisy, and string performances from Macie Stewart and Tomeka Reid, all of whom are veterans of Chicago’s collaborative improvised music milieu.

At times the results conjure Kevin Ayers delivering a Dylan Thomas or Gerard Manley Hopkins poem over a Bert Jansch song, all the while speaking in Elkington’s singular voice, and shot with indelible melodies. The opening track “Make It Up” takes off at breakneck speed propelled by the snaking rhythm section, as Elkington pointedly recounts the time he almost crashed his car trying to get to a séance on time (mostly fiction). “Wading The Vapors” deals with one of those memories so distant that it has ceased to feel like it really happened and showcases an astounding cello solo from Tomeka Reid. “Greatness Yet To Come” features Elkington’s labyrinthine guitar front and center in a tale of 1980s mid-teen hallucinogenic excess (mostly non-fiction), dissolving soon after into a cinematic reverie recalling Ennio Morricone at his most languid.

Each of these songs wrangles with memory, and even prophecy, in its knotty language and elegant, unpredictable progressions, drawing on the uncertain past—both personal and historical—in order to negotiate the uncertain future. In that sense, despite James’ protestations, perhaps it is folk music.

  • Available as 140g virgin vinyl LP, with heavy-duty reverse board jacket, printed inner sleeve, and high-res Bandcamp download code.
  • CD edition features heavy-duty reverse board gatefold jacket and LP replica artwork.
  • RIYL Steve Gunn, Michael Chapman, Kevin AyersBert JanschRyley Walker, Jim O’Rourke, Scott Walker, or Talk Talk.
  • PoB artist page and tour dates
  • Also check out Ambsace (PoB-21), James Elkington’s duo record with Nathan Salsburg

Acknowledgments

The combination of Elkington’s sonorous baritone and virtuosic fretboard forays makes a strong case for him as the spiritual heir to the late U.K. folk legend Bert Jansch. But for all of Wintres Woma‘s links to a scene that was approaching its peak when Elkington was a zygote, the dominant artistic voice here is an unflinchingly singular one. The lyrics, in particular, travel a path that seems entirely their own, with imagery unusual enough to force your synapses into new configurations, and a bittersweetness palpable enough to take you by the tear ducts and squeeze. With Elkington’s intimate, plum wine vocals and tactile guitar work at the core throughout, each track feels like a stylishly scrawled diary entry we’ve somehow wrangled the permission to read. His combination of timeless folk flavorings and an artful modernity blend into a wistful but never forlorn kind melancholy. It’s the kind that steps far enough back from the shifting of the seasons of life to know that the whole thing is just a dream to be played out, a dance to follow through, on the way to becoming one with the true sound of winter.

– Jim Allen, NPR Music First Listen

Jim is a great guitarist and a tremendous, empathetic listener. 

– Richard Thompson

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

With Wintres Woma, Elkington finds the space between fire and smoke, tangling complex fingerpicking into quiet, glowing melodies.

– Lars Gotrich, NPR Music

8/10; I’m New Here feature. The ex-pat Brit displays an affecting, fluid picking style… 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 to Nick Drake as James Blackshaw. 

– Wyndham Wallace, Uncut

Starkly gorgeous. Wintres Woma is less a debut than a timestamp of a road warrior’s present state of being. It sings with his collaborations, his influences, and his ingenuity.

– Will Schube, Noisey

The guitar king … already a visionary in his own right.

– Duncan Cooper, The Fader

James Elkington’s Wintres Woma is the one folk guitar album you must hear in 2017.

— Caitlin White, Uproxx

The album emphasizes Elkington’s sleepy baritone voice and lyrical, fingerstyle guitar playing. Curlicue figures on songs like “Make it Up” will send aspiring guitarists to the woodshed. Although working with folk-based accoutrements, Elkington’s instincts are shaped as much by Television and the Smiths as they are by Nick Drake and Davey Graham.

– Jeff Elbel, Chicago Sun-Times

10/10. This album is a direct descendent to all of those classic English folk records by Bert Jansch, John Martyn, Ralph McTell, Nick Drake, and Michael Chapman. Yeah, it’s that good. And it’s that good with the songwriting, the guitar magic, an almost Kevin Ayers-like baritone voice, and lovely maverick spirit. 

– Bill Golembeski, Soundblab

Calling James Elkington a ‘guitarist’ is putting it lightly. The England-born musician has the kind of sound that makes you question if it’s just one guy playing; he can conjure up an entire six-string orchestra with his sprightly and nuanced fingerpicking. 

– Art Levy, KUTX “Song of the Day”

Wintres Woma simultaneously has an earthy and an astral bent to it. It’s possible those emphatic strings and the fervent guitar work was recorded a few months ago, but it’s also possible this is music from four centuries back.

– Paste

An elegant acoustic album.

– Chicago Magazine

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