Jacken Elswyth

At Fargrounds

Image of Jacken Elswyth - At Fargrounds
Record Label
Wrong Speed Records

About this item

Jacken Elswyth is a London-based folk musician, banjo player, and instrument builder. At Fargrounds is her third solo album, her first for the Wrong Speed label and the latest in a rich catalogue that repositions the spectral, vulnerable sound of the banjo away from its familiar role as signifier of the past and onto lands brave, new and unexplored. The living wood is imbued with qualities that require engagement and understanding. Working with cherry, oak or walnut involves naming it an equal partner. The parallel, synchronous transformations of wood into instrument, of growing tree into resonating sound, musical tradition into musical flourishing, lie at the heart of Jacken Elswyth’s practices both as an instrument builder and as a creative musician.

One might consider her primarily as a worker in wood, but whose craft and fields of expression are absorbed by those transitional and interim processes that manifest change. The traditional tunes included here have been cultivated and maintained by generations of players and collectors, pruned, grafted, and shaped over time. However, in this setting, their long-established forms seem to morph and shift. They audibly accrue unique qualities, blossoming and swelling into new modes of being, bright-stepping arrangements unfolding with a liveliness hinting at practices of ritual and community. Meanwhile, other pieces, creative cornerstones of this collection, appear fluid, partially formed. They suggest not the cultivation of new growth from established stock, but instead the actions of something on the verge of taking form. Working with raw elements of melodic and tonal abstraction, they illuminate the process of emergence and evolution.

In this context, the title At Fargrounds is telling. It suggests a point set at some distance from any centre of human concerns, a liminal space in which the cultivated world encounters the world of other living things in their living state. Here, the innate strangeness of the maintained environment–vast lawns, sculpted hedges, vacant playing fields–encounters sprawling vistas of driftwood, dense thickets of brambles, stony hillsides. Across a full century-and-a-quarter, long-standing rural and pastoral musical traditions, at some distance from their origins, have been preserved, nurtured and re-shaped under the folk revival. Placed here, these artefacts now sit in alignment with unvarnished documents featuring the raw elements of sound-making. Their working-together is achieved through a universally-applied interest in musical growth and development.

The juxtaposition and combination of these elements gives evidence of new, emerging approaches to community and social music: familiar, known, yet charged with an alien vitality.


1. Singing Birds/Jack Lattin
2. Warm Machinery
3. Private
4. Lost Gander
5. Waken Workshops
6. White Cockade/BigSciota
7. Sussex Waltz
8. Princess Royal
9. Who Remembers
10. A Fisherman's Song For Attracting Seals/Full RiggedShip
11. Falls Of Richmond/Squirrel Hunters
12. Coffin Maker

You may also like

Back to top