The EP opens with a title track of sorts (“Can’t Take Another Winter”). The mellow chord progression serenely paints the snow-covered soundscape a stark shade of white. Cross’ gutsy and expressive vocals bring a fitting warmth, like fresh coffee after a trek through miles of winter’s frozen rain. The bass appears on cue — a frostbitten hand finds 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 against one another, but 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 the aching falsetto melody in the chorus.
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 Christmas-time,” Cross solidifies the 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.