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James Elkington's 'Wading The Vapors' Whips Up A Gust Of Guitar And Cello

James Elkington's debut album, <em>Wintres Woma</em>, comes out June 30.
Tim Harris
Courtesy of the artist
James Elkington's debut album, Wintres Woma, comes out June 30.

James Elkington's debut solo record took a long, side-winding path to completion. The Chicago-based English musician took time off — years — from his own work to play guitar, lap steel and keys on albums by Steve Gunn, Joan Shelley, Michael Chapman, Wooden Wand and Richard Thompson. But finally, with Wintres Woma, Elkington finds the space between fire and smoke, tangling complex fingerpicking into quiet, glowing melodies.

Featuring fellow Chicagoans Nick Macri on bass and Tomeka Reid on cello (herself a musical chameleon), "Wading The Vapors" unfolds like thick fog. Nick Drake's Five Leaves Left comes to mind, mostly due to the instrumentation, but the trio whips up a torrent of strings that can easily be sourced back to British folk music and free jazz.

As he tells NPR, it's a song meant for the end of the night, inspired by the pubs of his hometown.

"The village I come from is mostly hills and pubs," Elkington writes. "As teenagers, my friends and I would climb the hills and cycle through these pubs in the span of a couple of weeks. One place lay at the other end of a half-wild, unlit area of woods called 'the common,' an area populated nightly by juvenile glue-sniffers and middle-aged dog-walkers. The drunken walks back from this pub as the fog rolled in over the common were weird and unsettling in the best way, and I tried to pull all of that into 'Wading The Vapors.'"

Wintres Woma comes out June 30 on Paradise of Bachelors.

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