Review: Another Winter EP (Justin Cross)

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New Year’s may have already passed, but winter is just now settling in. In musical terms, this is usually the time of year to break out some Fleet Foxes, Jon Foreman, and George Winston. This year, Justin Cross is added to that list of writers, thanks to his elegant and December-esque new EP, Another Winter.

The EP opens with the title track, of sorts (“Can’t Take Another Winter”) – The mellow chord progression serenely painting the snow-covered soundscape a stark shade of white. Cross’s gutsy and expressive vocals then bring a fitting warmth, like fresh coffee after a trek through feet of winter’s frozen rain. The bass appears on cue – a frostbitten hand to a warm mitten, and the banjo too – icicles hanging down outside from the tin roof. The mesmerizing melody of the chorus then ties the whole song together, pitting musical gut and music theory logic – satisfying both sides absolutely with a perfect balance.

Not only are the soundscapes gorgeous and rich with winter splendor, but Cross has both the writing skill and vocal chops to consummate his musical vision. “Billy Dyer” and “Only” play out like long-lost Ryan Adams tunes (especially the former, with its icy harmonica and contagious folk sway), and “December Third” impresses thoroughly, with its Bon Iver-tinged harmonies and aching falsetto chorus melody.

The EP’s crowning jewel is “Christmas Day,” a mid-tempo number with both heart and a little bit of heartache. With instantly memorable lines like “And when the silent night surrounds us / And the world goes dark outside / It’ll feel like Christmastime,” Cross solidifies his case for why his great tunes should keep your ears warm all winter long.

Another Winter EP is available from Justin’s BandCamp page and at his shows. He will be opening for the legendary Bill Mallonee at Moonlight on the Mountain this coming Wednesday, January 16, at 7:30pm ($12).