Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 28

Alt-Tuned Sojourn

E

xpatriate English guitarist James Elkington
has long been based in Chicago, collaborating with other musicians including Janet Bean,
Nathan Salsburg, and Steve Gunn. His first solo
album is a mostly-acoustic effort called Wintres
Woma, and it gives nod to his homeland in ways
beyond its Old English title, which means "the
sound of winter."
"The way I write songs has a kind of 'Englishness' to it, though I haven't really been able to put
my finger on what that is," he recently told VG. "It
gets in your bones, and I'm more aware of it now

that I don't live there. I was also concentrating
on trying to get the arrangement figured out in
the guitar part in the way that a lot of British
folk players used to do."
Elkington played his parts in a DADGAD, a
tuning he practiced during down time on tours.
"I wanted to tap into the way people like Pierre
Bensusan and Martin Carthy arranged traditional
songs, and apply it to my own," he explained.
Wintres Woma was recorded at the studio
of alt-rock band Wilco, where Elkington used
guitars owned by Jeff Tweedy.

VINTAGE GUITAR

28

October 2017

James Elkington: Spencer Tweedy.

JAMES ELKINGTON

"Jeff's collection is out of control, so I had
to limit myself to the eight or nine guitars
immediately around me, just to get any work
done," Elkington said. "The one that got the
most use was Jeff's Gibson L-00 from 1934,
which sounded great in the room, but even better
recorded. It was exactly the sound I was after,
so I used it for almost everything. I recorded a
couple songs with my Santa Cruz OM, which
has been my main guitar for a while. I also used
a '50s Martin nylon-string, and one of Jeff's
Waterloo WL-14s. I was so impressed with his
that I bought one to use on tour. It's the closest
thing I have to Jeff's L-00."
He also played banjo ("a crappy Washburn
I've been dragging around for 25 years") and
a dobro.
The album's leadoff track, "Make It Up,"
is also the first single, propelled by a rolling,
rapid-fire fingerpicked anchor lick and one of
the few electric guitar passages on the album.
"It's the most-accessible song on the record -
kind of uptempo, but also a mission statement,"
he detailed. "The electric is a parts Tele with
an old Burns Tri-Sonic pickup, going through
a '60s Magnatone Twilighter."
The only discernible percussion is a tabla
sound on "Make It Up" and "Wading the Vapors."
"Those are congas played with mallets by
Tim Daisy, who's a great drummer," Elkington
said. "Anything else in the way of percussion
is probably me."
"The Parting Glass" is a traditional instrumental.
"It's an old Irish tune I found in a book," said
Elkington. "Again, I'm a fan of how people like
Martin Carthy and Bert Jansch would arrange
traditional music for other tunings, and that was
my first attempt at taking a melody and putting
a newly composed harmony to it."
What sounds like an orchestral interlude on
"Greatness Yet To Come" is "...actually just two
very gifted musicians doubling themselves with
different instruments and making it sound like
an orchestra. Macie Stewart plays violin and
viola, and Tomeka Reid plays cello. I wanted
it to have a cinematic feel, and I think it came
out really well considering it was just the two
of them."
The final track contains another bit of electric. "The solos on 'Any Afternoon' are a Les
Paul," he said. "It's chambered and has Duncan
Antiquities. I'm way into it."
While Elkington had a concept for the disc
and is proud of the results, he still appreciates
playing with others.
"I think collaborations are my more-natural
habitat," he said. "As long as I get a balance, I'm
happy." - Willie G. Moseley


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