Three Beats: Jim Elkington and Nathan Salsburg debut a folky fingerstyle duo | Three Beats | Chicago Reader

Three Beats: Jim Elkington and Nathan Salsburg debut a folky fingerstyle duo 

Plus: A first taste of Selva Oscura's sample-based electro-pop, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra does The Fellowship of the Ring at Ravinia

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Jim Elkington and Nathan Salsburg

Jim Elkington and Nathan Salsburg

FOLK | Jim Elkington and Nathan Salsburg debut as a duo

Guitarist Jim Elkington met Nathan Salsburg through his future wife, publicist Jessica Linker, about a year after he started dating her in 2004—she and Salsburg had been childhood friends in Louisville, Kentucky. Elkington, a native of London, moved to Chicago in 2000 and formed a band called the Zincs, which he led for many years; Salsburg works for the Alan Lomax Archive and runs the Drag City subsidiary Twos & Fews, whose releases include archival material from rural southern singers Nimrod Workman and Hamper McBee. Elkington has always been aware that his friend was obsessive about music, but it took him a while to realize Salsburg was also an accomplished guitarist.

After they'd known each other about three years, Salsburg dumped a bunch of music onto Elkington's hard drive, including a few tracks of his own. Salsburg plays fingerstyle guitar a la John Fahey, but at the time he'd yet to release anything—even now, the only commercially available evidence of his talent is "Bold Ruler's Joys," a fluid, almost jazzy miniature found on the 2008 solo-guitar compilation Imaginational Anthem Volume Three (Tompkins Square). "When you find out that a friend is really good at something," Elkington says, "it's natural to want to do something together."

The two soon began collaborating on an instrumental record; Elkington would send MP3s of sketches he'd composed that left space for Salsburg's input. Two years ago they got together at the Chicago home studio of Jonathan Schenke, cutting six tracks during their first session, but it would take them another year and a half to finish the 13-track album—including time for mixing and adding overdubs by Wanees Zarour (violin, buzuq) and Nick Macri (bass).

On Tue 8/23 Tompkins Square will release the result, Avos, on vinyl and as a digital download. The duo's meditative, carefully braided acoustic guitars lean toward the rustic, rather than toward Salsburg's usual ornamental fingerstyle approach, and the brief, tightly constructed songs combine British and rural American guitar traditions.

"I have a short attention span," Elkington says, "and although I love solo guitar, I didn't feel confident enough to write long-form pieces." The duo will perform live for the first time at the Hideout on October 8, and Salsburg's first solo album, Affirmed, is due November 15 on No Quarter.

—Peter Margasak


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