Review: Eli Winter – Eli Winter
National Music Reviews
Three Lobed Recordings
Eli Winter = Steve Gunn + Ryley Walker
Eli Winter’s eponymous third album is a stellar collection of six instrumental, folk guitar tracks that range from bluesy to eerie to psychedelic to honky-tonk. There is an astute level of expertise involved here. Winter clearly has mastered his craft through experimental periods of discovery after he achieved an initial leveling up. These songs are so smooth that they sound effortless. A listener can simply lie back and relax without knowing what is truly happening with the strings and the artist within the booth, never realizing that they are hearing something so detailed and layered—it’s actually mind-blowing.
The opening track, “For a Chisos Bluebonnet” is a revelation, an adventure. There is a bit of deep country there to accompany the lighthearted spirit of the composition. It’s rich and dense, conjuring images of open skies and a fenceless horizon.
“No Fear” is a track that fits into a mold all its own. It sounds dark and explorative. The track is laden with feedback and purposeful pauses. What those purposes are is up to the interpretation of the listener. I felt like I was walking to a corner without knowing what I may find when I got there but feeling compelled to continue nonetheless, fearful or not.
As the album continues, additional instruments enhance the trip that Winter takes you on. The drums played by Tyler Damon found within “Dayenu” set a heart-pounding pace, matched quickly by the guitar. The song provides an inspiring, motivating, hopeful and palpable vibe. I’d take a bite of this anytime.
Finally, we are left with the album’s closer, “Unbecoming.” What a finish it is, too. There are sounds that add to the complexity of Winter’s guitar. He can do incredible things most aren’t aware of. He adds other elements here as well such as the viola, played by Whitney Johnson and backing vocals, subtly presented very well by Guilia Chiappetta and Liz Downing. Alone, those pieces emphasize his brilliance, of which I am extremely appreciative, but added to the album’s density, these aspects are integral to the design. –Billy Swartzfager