A fingerstyle acoustic guitarist and composer uses primarily alternate tunings, James Filkins creates acoustic instrumental music that is a bit new age, a bit Celtic, acoustically melodic, moody and sonically textured. His music has been described as “breathtaking”, “elegant” and “impressionistic”. His music is often inspired by the landscape and locations around Northwestern Lower Michigan where he resides, as well as places from his travels far and wide. Both of the title tracks from his new CD, Summer Sands and Sleeping Bears, was inspired by the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and both Leland Harbor and the Schooner Inland Seas make an auditory appearance in the tune “Foamfollower.” Other tunes recall travels as far away England, Wales and Hawaii and as close his back deck in Traverse City, Michigan.
Filkins’ first CD, Borderline Normal has been appealing to a diverse audience since its release. Highlights include:
-Several tracks featured in both the fifth and eight seasons of the PBS program Roadtrip Nation as well as NPR’s Open Mic.
- Theme music for “Nature's Call” program on WIAA, Interlochen
- A Nomination by WYCE for a Jammie Award
- Honorable mention in the 2007 Great Lakes Songwriting Contest and the West Coast Song
Writers 2008 Contest
-Finalist in 9th Annual Great American Song Contest
-Charting on the Roots Music Report Folk Chart
-Charting on the Michigan Regional Roots Artists Radio Airplay Chart
-Airplay includes: WYCE, WEMU, WXDU, WIAA, WNMC, CKLN, KCUR, WWSP, WMHB, WSCS, HOMEGROWNRADIONJ, WWR-Whole Wheat Radio, Acoustic Accents, CLOUD365, RADIOnuages.com.
-Songs from Borderline Normal are aired on the Instrumental/ New Age Channel at Galaxie of the CBC
-Several of his songs have been featured on compilation CDs including the Hand Made Music CD
James Filkins - Acoustic Guitars
Leslie Anne Harrison - flute
Zac Leger - whistles
Tim Lorsch - Violin
Jon Tornga - Hand drums
Marc Alderman - Djembe, Wind Chime, Wood Block, gurio
Borderline Normal (2007)
Inclusion of two songs,"Women & Roses" and "Autumnal Equinox, on the Handmade CD(2010)
Summer Sands & Sleeping Bears (2012)
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James Filkins's acoustic guitar CD derives its title from the alternate tunings of its 14 tracks. Ho...James Filkins's acoustic guitar CD derives its title from the alternate tunings of its 14 tracks. However, no ability to comprehend cryptic annotations like "DGDGBD" and "DADF#AD" is necessary: the clear, melodic instrumentals on Borderline Normal speak eloquently for themselves.
If you like the sound of fingerpicked acoustic guitar, this CD is for you -- and if you don't, Borderline Normal may just succeed in converting you. Except for some silvery chimes and light percussion on a few of the tracks, it's pretty much just James Filkins and his acoustic guitars for the full 50 minutes of the CD. This turns out to be a very good thing.
His compositions are crisp and confident, yet produce a relaxed, easygoing ambience. The CD opens with the well-titled piece, "Round Lake Leelanau (A Biking Tune)," a track redolent with fresh air and open space. Like a musical game of Marco Polo, the clear, high refrain, slightly evocative of a bicycle bell, seems to call and answer the warmer underlying melody.
The rest of the tracks can be divided into two basic camps: those with percussion and those without. The title cut and "Possibilities" are upbeat and sunny, their sauntering pace accentuated by laidback conga and djembe rhythms. "Early Morning Promises" and "A Bleak December" are slower and more contemplative guitar solos. Because all 14 tracks are more or less mellow and cohesive in tone, it's difficult to pick out favourites. On the upside, there are definitely no clunkers.
Filkins gets just about everything right with Borderline Normal. Part of the charm is the utter lack of pretension: the liner notes comment that the recording was "engineered and produced by James Filkins, if at all." There are no synthesisers or cheesy sound effects, just good, unadulterated guitar music and sound quality so sharp that it often seems like Filkins is playing in the same room. What is all the more surprising is that the tracks were recorded in his own home.
Uncluttered and full of homegrown integrity, this CD is the perfect companion to a summer afternoon on the porch with a good book. Not that it should be relegated to background music; it's unobtrusive but fully worthy of your attention. I've never cared for the word "borderline" with its implications of being only-just-good-enough. Disregard the name: Borderline Normal is very good indeed.
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So, you’re the knowledgeable type. You figured the Traverse City guitar scene wasn’t big enough to... So, you’re the knowledgeable type. You figured the Traverse City guitar scene wasn’t big enough to hold much more than John Wunsch, and you would generally be right, but Filkins is an up and comer that plays a different style of acoustic guitar than Wunsch so there’s room for both of them without a need for a shoot out. Like the kind of guitar music label like Tompkins Square are rediscovering and letting flower, Filkins gently sees how far he can push the possibilities of guitar. Falling under the realm of new age and NAC without swallowing the wishy washy elements of either, Filkins’ music is along the line of guitar miniatures that tell stories within themselves. A delightful diversion with an attention to craft you don’t often see/hear.
Bridge Guitar Reviews
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The debut album from the native USA finger-style guitarist James Filkins is a treat for the ears. Ja...The debut album from the native USA finger-style guitarist James Filkins is a treat for the ears. James Filkins plays primarily in altered tunings, to get his own intimate sound out of his Dermot Mcilroy and Simon Fay guitars. All songs are very reflective and all songs are written by James Filkins himself. His guitar music feels like a continuous flow of inspiration of the deeper layers of the soul. The first track “Round Lake Leelanau” has very nice and rich overtones. “Borderline Normal” the title track of this CD has a nice groove with additional percussion. The techniques James uses are most arpeggio play with additional strum patterns with a remarkable touching melody line as for instance, “Ducks Float” and “A Bleak December”. The last track of the CD “Holding back the Dawn” has as many of his pennings a soulful approach. James Filkins plays no killer chops but is at his best getting his own unique sound with catching and soothing melody play.
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James Filkins "Borderline Normal," 2006 Quiet, reflective moods dominate the music on this pleasant,...James Filkins "Borderline Normal," 2006 Quiet, reflective moods dominate the music on this pleasant, self-produced disc. Michigan steel-string guitarist James Filkins' music has New Age qualities, notably, effective use of repetition, resonance and silence. Some of the strongest performances include the opener, "Round Lake Leelanau," "Ambient Noise" and "Autrain River," all of which have well-developed themes in the aforementioned context. Filkins enlists guitarist Matt Harting and percussionists John Tornga and Marc Alderman on the title tune, which has a jazzy tinge and manages to hold the listener's interest without any flashy soloing. "Possibilities" also fits into a comfortable, smooth jazz groove. Filkins' music could use more dynamics, but his compositions and performances are solid and listenable. Both the solo and ensemble tracks are well recorded. This CD should sell well at his live performances and gain him some well-deserved publicity.
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“Nice finger style acoustic guitar folk that relaxes the soul and rests the imagination for a bit. N...“Nice finger style acoustic guitar folk that relaxes the soul and rests the imagination for a bit. Not to say that it isn’t an energetic burst of rock, because it is. Roots rock that reinvigorates while it coaxes. Definitely a nifty instrumental listen, especially for those of you that play guitar—or any stringed instrument for that matter.”
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“The essence of the music is all that matters here- almost impressionistic - shifting and drif... “The essence of the music is all that matters here- almost impressionistic - shifting and drifting through a beautiful haze of sound."
James Filkins is taking us back to the basics, in more ways than one. Not only does he finger-pick his hand-made acoustic guitar with alternate tunings, he also recorded the tracks on this album in various rooms of his home. It's a labor of love, built from the ground up in the truest of DIY fashion. Filkins is not flashy or showy, instead he keeps his focus on the melody and overall feel of the song. The essence of the music is all that matters here. It's an almost impressionistic way of playing the guitar, shifting and drifting through a beautiful haze of sound."
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Filkins performs on two hand-built acoustic guitars, capturing images amid the strings on titles... Filkins performs on two hand-built acoustic guitars, capturing images amid the strings on titles such as “Round Lake Leelanau (a biking tune), “Ambient Noise,” “Tears for a Princess” and “A Bleak December.” If you like the new age sounds of Windham Hill and the crisp, clean ring of an impeccably-played steel string guitar, then “Borderline Normal” is your ticket to ride.
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Acknowledging my debt to Mojo Nixon & his song "Elvis Is Everywhere", I have come to the conclus... Acknowledging my debt to Mojo Nixon & his song "Elvis Is Everywhere", I have come to the conclusion that while Elvis may not be everywhere, talent & talented people are everywhere. Specifically, there is one VERY talented guitarist in Traverse City, MI; his name is James Filkins.
Devoted to his passion of alternative tunings, James' debut CD is song-after-song of stunningly beautiful guitar playing. Breathtakingly elegant & sensitive are just two adjectives that come to mind to describe all 14 songs. It is one of those all too rare CD's where the next track seems even better than the preceding one; such is the case with "Borderline Normal".
14 tracks of excellent, thoughtful & beautiful guitar playing. This is, without a doubt, the best acoustic guitar CD that I have heard in along time. Superlative in every way!
James has at least one new fan in me; his guitar playing deserves many more.”
Solid Air Records recording artist
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Borderline Normal is an easy listen... soothing music that calms the spirit. The sound quality i... Borderline Normal is an easy listen... soothing music that calms the spirit. The sound quality is top-notch, which really showcases Filkins' playing and the wonderful tone of the guitars."
Original music only, no cover at this time