James Elkington & Nathan Salsburg

All Gist (Paradise Of Bachelors)

Contact Jessica Linker about James Elkington & Nathan Salsburg

James Elkington and Nathan Salsburg will release a new album of guitar duets, All Gist, on April 12th via Paradise of Bachelors. Despite their best intentions, and genuine fondness for playing music and being together, Chicago-based Elkington and Louisville-based Salsburg rarely get the chance to do either. It’s a small wonder All Gist, their third album of guitar duets following 2015’s Ambsace, was made at all. As they’d done on their previous two duo records, each brought fragments of varying lengths to the table (literally Elkington’s family’s kitchen table). In varying degrees of frenzy, between groans and laughs, coffees and beers, and hard stops for school pick-ups, this latest collection of 10 songs was built. Some took their feverish shape in 40 minutes while others took several intense hours of tinkering, mostly for Salsburg to carve sympathetic designs around the knotty edifice Elkington had constructed.


Amidst a range of original duo compositions, the covers on All Gist cover the waterfront of Elkington and Salsburg’s abiding interests, from a faithful arrangement of English composer Howard Skempton’s “Well, Well, Cornelius,” to a composite of two traditional Breton dance tunes, to a transmutation of Neneh Cherry’s monumental “Buffalo Stance,” released today as the album’s lead single. “Buffalo Stance” is a song likely no one aside from Elkington and Salsburg would ever have thought for a moment could or should be made into fodder for two acoustic guitars. “While playing a few rounds of Neneh Cherry’s transcendent ‘Buffalo Stance’ for my toddler, I was struck for the first time (at least since c. 1988) by how fantastic some of its riffs are,” Salsburg recounts. “I suggested to Jim that we work up an arrangement for two guitars. Jim was initially doubtful — it’s a lot of rapping — but within an hour he sent back a one-guitar demo of most of the constituent melodic elements. It sent me into paroxysms of joy, only exceeded by the eventual thrill of sitting down together and hammering out our collaborative version.”


Like Ambsace, All Gist has its share of unadorned duets showcasing the duo’s skill at putting together, and then playing together, a piece of music. You may not think this duo needs any assistance in their production, but All Gist is accompanied by stellar players whose names will be familiar to listeners of Elkington and Salburg records, together and apart, including standout bassist Nick Macri, who returns to lend his great musicality to the majority of songs, Wanees Zarour, whose violin soars over and through the guitars with customary grace, ethereal woodwinds from Pigeons band member and solo explorer Wednesday Knudsen, and Reich-like layers from Jean Cook on strings and Anna Jacobson on brass. All Gist demonstrates more than anything the precarious balance struck between what the pair is — exemplified by cramming to compose or remember guitar parts in Elkington’s kitchen — and what they could be if it was the engine of a small orchestra in a government-funded arts enclave in some Central European country.


Elkington recently released Me Neither, an album of his take on library music. He plays guitar with Jeff Tweedy, Brokeback, Eleventh Dream Day and beyond, and is a producer, working with the likes of Joan Shelley, Steve Gunn, Jake Xerxes Fussell and more. Salsburg is known for his own solo albums, most recently releasing the third album in his Landwerk series of compositions built around samples drawn from early 20th-century phonograph records, as well as recording and performing regularly with Joan Shelley, and his work as Curator for the Alan Lomax Archive.