Stephen Winston – Unresolved

Stephen Winston has quietly set about, not by conscious design, building one of the best under-the-radar discographies in the music world today thanks to the consistently high quality of his work and the growth he’s evidenced since his first release. His latest album Unresolved, inspired by a number of personal challenges Winston has faced with his family in recent years, is an unsparing nine song recording showing Winston’s art, braver than ever before, speaks from a heart eager to tell its story.

Despite the emotional weight of the lyrical content, Winston never fails to surround the writing with pointed musical accompaniment never over-stepping its mandate and aiming for nothing else but capturing the audience’s imagination and hearts alike.

Sun on the Boats is a note perfect introduction to his intentions. Piano figures huge in Unresolved’s musical landscape and the delicate melodies he captures with the instrument often act as a second vocalist duetting with his own voice. The song’s imagery is finely tuned and open to listener’s interpretation, though Winston certainly tells a story in his own unique voice.

Maidens goes in a different direction with the inclusion of hard hitting drums and electric guitar playing along with a lot of bite. Tastefulness and artistry prevail again though – though the songs have a very different sound, the instruments introduced with this second song never come off overwrought.

It’s a guiding principle behind Unresolved as a whole. The title song is my favorite moment on the release because it seems to explode the radiant possibilities of the first two songs into a whole new direction that, for newcomers to Winston’s music, will undoubtedly impress. Producer and engineer Michael Pfeifer does a five star job of capturing the song’s acoustic guitar and balancing it out against the other new elements explored with this song.

Maybe It’s For James is a deeply personal song for Winston you can learn more about on his website, but not knowing the inspiration behind its lyrics and music doesn’t make it any less affecting. Another collaborator, Steve Cooper, makes his presence felt here thanks to the superb arrangement for this song. It’s a string ballad you won’t soon forget.

For What Purpose is an achievement Winston can hang his hat on for years to come. Few songs you’ll hear from his contemporaries wrestle with life’s realities in such an approachable way. Yes, songs like this and others are intense – but Winston places them in the context of appealing sonic narratives that never dampen listener’s spirits.

The Last Night is like that as well. It’s another string ballad, in some respects, but piano plays a far less prominent role in this performance than earlier iterations of this style. Instead, it fixes on gorgeous fiddle playing and acoustic guitar to bring the song to life for listeners and it succeeds with muted, moody delicacy. It brings Unresolved to a spectacular close in a deeply thoughtful and sensitive manner. There is no question Winston has honored the transformative nature of his admittedly difficult experiences and, likely, has discovered catharsis as well through this music.

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If you enjoyed a sneak peak at Unresolved, check out Stephen Winston’s official website by clicking here. Give him a like on Facebook by clicking here & a follow on Twitter by clicking here.

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