Album Review / James Elkington: Ever-Roving Eye

Let’s take care of one thing first. So okay, Mr. Elkington has lived in the US for over 20 years but he is from England and his music has a definite connection to British folk roots, so this album is just fine to be reviewed here.

Right, then. I also wanted to review it because it’s a damn fine 36 minutes 31 seconds of music, a more than worthy successor to 2017’s Wintres Woma, a hell of an album and one of that year’s best.

Ever-Roving Eye comes with a wonderful balance: the songs present Elkington’s scope and versatility as a writer while his truly powerful guitar playing and laconic but expressive singing keep everything unified and within a clear framework.

I think it was the guitar that first struck me on his previous album and the same thing happened here. His guitar picking is unusually muscular and commanding but still retains the singing quality vital for this kind of music. There’s something very original in his playing style and how he gets the acoustic guitar to really drive the songs in various grooves and moods. Whether it’s the driven, fast patterns of Carousel and Rendlesham Way or the more quiet stylings of Sleeping Me Awake and Moon Tempering, his guitar lights up the music.

The songs are very much an expression of the artist’s vision. They have their own voice and color and are light years removed from maudlin singer-songwriters and men strumming guitars, and his singing, at some points a bit reminiscent of Lou Reed, blends in very nicely with the instruments, forming a lively tapestry.

The faster tunes, like the heated opening Nowhere Time and the shuffling Late Jim’s Lament, remind me of late 1960’s more innovative folk-rock, and on the more subdued side, Moon Tempering offers a tune so finely crafted and original it gives me goosebumps. The title track comes with another 1960’s/70’s flashback in 5/4 time, almost Robert Fripp -like layered fuzz guitars and quite a trippy feel.

All in all, Mr. Elkington has given us an album that shows its British and American roots but at the same time displays strong originality and vibrancy. My only complaint is that it’s too bloody short 😉

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