Sounds Like: Rainy English afternoons in the company of a cryptic storyteller and dazzling acoustic guitarist
For Fans of: Richard Thompson, Bert Jansch, Nick Drake
Why You Should Pay Attention: In a groovier world, you'd already know British-bred, Chicago-based singer-songwriter James Elkington from the four smart, charming albums he recorded in the '00s with the Zincs. And if you haven't yet clocked him as a keen guitar sidekick with Jeff Tweedy, Richard Thompson and others, you should definitely make his acquaintance through his debut solo album, Wintres Woma, an alterna-folk epiphany reflecting Elkington's years-long immersion in the fingerpicking guitar style associated with the late British folk legend Bert Jansch. More than just another bustle in your hedgerow, Wintres Woman (meaning "sounds of winter") contains songs written from the points of view of Caligula ("Sister of Mine") and a tripping teenage friend ("Greatness Yet to Come") swaddled in swirling overdubbed guitars and occasional strings. Elkington's guarded introspection makes for a subtle tension that the killer guitar playing gently dissolves.
He Says: "Growing up in England during the Eighties, folk music seemed like it was from a different planet … and part of its appeal for me was that it was so reviled and ignored. We had country dancing and sang folk songs in school – including some strange pagan and Wicker-Man-type tunes – but we used to laugh about folk music. Instead, we were all listening to the Smiths and measuring our quiffs. I only appreciated folk music when I moved to the States, where nothing ever really goes away and fashions don't cycle as fast as they do in the U.K. I was working in a guitar store and couldn't believe it when a 10-year-old came in wearing a Led Zeppelin T-shirt. That would never fucking happen in England."
Hear for Yourself: "Make It Up" features Elkington's laid-back voice and exquisite fingerpicking. Richard Gehr