Stephen Winston’s, One True Story, is around 18 years in the making. A collection of songs that were written over roughly a 4 year period, have now been assimilated to create a full-length LP. With 11 tracks in total, One True Story should probably be packaged with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, and a box of Ashton’s finest, in order to complete the experience. This is music made for those with a strong IPA, and a billiards room. That’s not to say that everyone can’t enjoy One True Story, as it’s a truly strong effort from Mr. Winston.
Stephen Winston’s sound is a mixture of Elton John, Gerry Rafferty, and Gilbert O’Sullivan, with a dash of Christopher Cross. He almost seems to exist in the wrong era, as One True Story would have likely been a legitimate smash, in 1986. He has successfully channeled the spirit and tone of 80’s era Soft Rock, and as a result, there are true delights to be had on the record. It’s a touch of fate that the tracks for One True Story were safely stored and subsequently unearthed. Thanks to Winston’s collaborator and bandmate, Michael Pfeifer, his early millennium musings were destined to see the light of day.
Based out of Littleton, Colorado, Stephen Winston knows a little something about winter. He shares his first-hand knowledge on the appropriately titled, “Winter.” A song that boasts a relatively sophisticated melody, supplemented by a soulful and gorgeous saxophone section. This one could literally have been a theme song to an episodic drama in the ’80s. “Winter tears a good man down/it brings him down.”
“Hold my breath and break this chain/of endless sorrow,” Winston sings on “Days On End.” A magnificently arranged piece, that while not the most delicate thing on the record, is among the most calming. There are moments of absolute perfection on One True Story, and this is one of them. Everything is complimentary to its counterpart on this track, and the subtleties are expertly administered. The snare sounds gorgeous and finds just the right juxtaposition to the more gentle framework of the piano.
“Something’s Gotta Give,” plays out more like background music. It’s a well-written song, and the performance is perfectly acceptable, but it feels a little less immediate by comparison. “I know where you want to live/and I know something’s gotta give.” The impression is of two people trying to reach compromise in a relationship when one is less happy than the other. The guitar stands out on “Something’s Gotta Give” with a unique, nylon-string tone.
All things considered, Stephen Winston took a shot in the dark, and it paid off. What could have felt like a disjointed and hodgepodge collection of songs, with no underlying narrative, surprisingly unfolds, quite nicely. While the performances and the ideas are not without flaws, there is a tremendous sense of proficiency from a songwriting standpoint. Winston is careful to never replicate himself on any of the tracks and makes a concerted effort to give each track its own spotlight. It’s 11 chapters, that come together to produce One True Story.