University of Chicago grad Eli Winter completes his second album of guitar instrumentals | Music Review | Chicago Reader

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University of Chicago grad Eli Winter completes his second album of guitar instrumentals

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Lou Reed was 38 years old when he released the 1980 LP Growing Up in Public. Though Eli Winter is just 23, he can already claim to have done just that. Live at the Louder House, the earliest release on his Bandcamp page, sounds like it was made by a kid who knew his way around a guitar but was still figuring out which approaches worked for him. Which makes sense, since he recorded it in May 2017, near the end of his freshman year at the University of Chicago. Despite being enrolled in a school demanding enough to earn the slogan “Where fun goes to die,” he kept up a brisk performance schedule right up till the last month of his senior year—and while some of those concerts were quite engaging, others felt like you’d walked into Winter’s dorm room while he traded licks with a buddy. The meandering, melancholy “Dark Light,” the sole electric piece on his new second full-length, Unbecoming, seems like a farewell to youthful indulgence. The side-length acoustic solo, “Either I Would Become Ash,” is an emotionally freighted narrative in the tradition of American Primitive guitarists such as Glenn Jones. Inspired by the late poet Tory Dent, who often wrote about her struggles living with HIV, the song relates more to the satisfaction found in remaining creative while battling a chronic illness than to the tragedy of her death from an AIDS-related infection in 2005. And “Maroon,” Winter’s first effort as a bandleader, launches eagerly into parts unknown, with pedal steel flourishes bouncing lightly off jaunty snare beats.   v

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