After even a single casual listen to Eli Winter’s debut record, The Time To Come, one can tell that the artist has a tight grasp on how to speak volumes with only the barest of elements.
The Time To Come is a stark, yet gorgeous collection of solo American Primitive acoustic and electric guitar, in a similar vein to the work of Jack Rose, Bill Orcutt and William Tyler. His arrangements are complex, deeply meditative excursions that never veer off into boastful territories. Even at his most spontaneous, each note that Winter plays feels carefully chosen and perfectly plotted. Somehow, each pause even feels important. Make no mistake; these are indeed the markings of a very proficient fingerpicker.
For example, the jubilant 12-string fantasia that is “Live Oak Standing in the Rain,” is a prismatic release of shimmering leads that sounds like an entire orchestra of guitarists orbiting each other. It’s utterly remarkable that this song is really just one musician (and a musician as young as the college-aged Winter, no less) and yet, each of the many, many individual notes that you hear within this rolling thicket of sound feels absolutely perfect just where it is. While they’re all minuscule, they’re still essential, like the tiny colored tiles in a grand mosaic. This detailed, attentive style of playing is all across the album, making it a non-stop display of true, honest artistry.
A major strength of this record is that each song features its own unique texture, atmosphere and emotional core. In this way, every new track nicely contrasts and compliments the one that came before it. For instance, the cheerful whimsy of “Oranges and Holly” feels all the more delicate and wholesome when placed before the forlorn, buzzing electric storminess of “Knock it Out.”
Another major strength of the record is the artist’s use of space. The natural acoustics of the room around Winter and his guitar is almost used so extensively and so well, it’s nearly utilized as an instrument itself. This natural dose of subtle reverb often adds a little extra emotional resonance to the song, which is most notable in the title track.
“The Time To Come” really makes you hold your breath. It’s an unbelievably stunning 15-minute marathon of intricate, heartfelt playing that speaks straight to your soul without the use of a single lyric. You don’t need to read the description on Winter’s Bandcamp to know that this piece is about the loss of a dear friend and a tearful celebration of their life. Through a combination of fast-paced melancholic reels that float around the room like a lush, resounding hymn in an old church (the great Jana Hunter’s production work here is simply outstanding) and deeply reverberating, pearl-like harmonics that twinkle away like small, soft bells, it’s hard not to get a lump in your throat while hearing this song.
It staggers the imagination when you remember that this album—which contains this much power, heart and skill—is still just Eli Winter’s debut record. I’m not sure where he might go from here, but I’m very certain that it will be a great listen.
You can pre-order The Time To Come, which drops on May 24th, 2019, here.