In the five years since his debut EP, CB Radio, Chris Burns has transformed from a loop pedal-wielding solo musician to front-man The inherent risk in such a change is to go from a raw, intimate sound to overproduced pop alchemy. In the case of Burns’ full-length debut, Out of the Well, those pitfalls are largely avoided. Though “Skeleton” is more powerful in a stripped single-guitar format and “Every Fool’s Been Here” could do without the horn flourishes, overall the album is an eclectic collection of pop gems.
Stylistically Burns’ music is an assault on the acoustic fretboard, with punchy staccato rhythms and hammered arpeggios. The addition of a full band fleshes out the sound, adding a worldly thump and jazz flourishes. On “Skeleton,” the skeleton in a man’s closet tells him “I think that it may be time for you to let me out.” Out of the Well is in large part Burns doing exactly that, purging the feelings haunting his soul via pen and six-string.
The album is rich with themes of love, faith, and the exercising of personal demons. “Mother’s Day” finds Burns struggling through life without his late mother, haunted by “the silhouette of a lifetime that’s never coming back.” The blues-tinged “Old” is a call to action, attacking excuses for apathy regarding the word’s problems. Those problems are brought to life with “Mission,” a track inspired by a trip to Malawi. Overwhelmed by the extreme poverty and illness, Burns pleads “how’s a broken man like me supposed to help God’s child?”
On the title track, Burns says that “life is a snapshot of your way home.” Out of the Well is a snapshot of the struggles encountered on a personal journey through a fallen world. Burns’ velveteen voice and warm guitar tone belie the hard truth that such a journey will have many dark chapters. As in the Andrew Hudgins poem from which the album takes its name, Burns shows that it is only when confronting that darkness that you can truly appreciate the light.