Albums of guitar duets are rare. Albums of guitar duets featuring one American and one Englishman, synthesizing their particular geographically specific approaches in a collection of new compositions, are even more rare. Not since Stefan Grossman and John Renbourn's partnerships of the 1970s has there been such a happy reconciliation of Merrie Old England and the good old USA, in which baroque meets the blues, music-hall steps out to ragtime, and Benjamin Britten sits down with Blind Blake.
James Elkington moved from London to Chicago around the turn of the millennium and has since released a string of albums as leader of The Zincs for Thrill Jockey Records. After dissolving the band in 2008, Elkington has concentrated on acoustic, folk-tinged music with his band The Horse's Ha (that he shares with Freakwater's Janet Bean), culminating in the release of their debut album, Of The Cathmawr Yards in 2009. He is also the owner/operator of a clunky solo career, and moonlights convincingly as the guitar player in Jon Langford's (of The Mekons) Skull Orchard.
Nathan Salsburg is best known as an archivist and producer for the Alan Lomax Archive, curator of the Twos & Fews vernacular-music imprint on Drag City Records, and host of the "Root Hog Or Die" program on East Village Radio. But after a 2007 move from New York City back to his childhood home of Louisville, Kentucky - and the inclusion of a track on Tompkins Square's "Imaginational Anthem, Volume 3" compilation - he discovered adequate time, space, and energy to devote to guitar playing.
Elkington suggested a leap of faith into a collaboration, despite the fact that the two had never previously played guitar together. Avos, then, hither and thither over several seasons, between a porch in Louisville and a kitchen in Chicago, slowly took shape. Aptly, the name comes from the Russian word for the confident approach to new situations, and the faith that nothing tragic will occur once in them.
James Elkington & Nathan Salsburg play their record release show on Sunday, October 9th at The Hideout in Chicago. More shows will be scheduled in the coming weeks.