Chris Brain – Bound To Rise

Vodka did a double-take as soon as the vocal kicked in. That voice is hauntingly familiar, yet not familiar. It’s like, but not quite like, Nick Drake. Even compositionally, Chris Brain has a Nick Drake-ish take on music creation and sound. Don’t get me wrong: Chris is 100% original. I’m sure many of you have never heard of Nick Drake. It’s unfair to bring him up without discussing him just a bit, but just know this review is not for Nick Drake, it’s for Chris Brain whose music here is magnificent! 

OK, let’s get Nick Drake out of the way: Drake was a folk-pop musician in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He released three LPs during his lifetime, none of which gained widespread appeal until after his death. The reason for this was that Drake was painfully shy, and kept away from interviews and live performances, the result of which was that during his life, these LPs only sold a few thousand copies each. Drake suffered crippling depression and died of an overdose of anti-depressants in November 1974. Drake’s fortunes rose posthumously in the 1980s as artists such as  Kate Bush and Peter Buck listed Drake as influences. It may be because of this that Drake’s catalog still exists, despite the poor sales that the LPs received initially. Now that you know something about Drake, go purchase some of his music to get the rest of the story.

Now back to Chris Brain! Bound To Rise (seen/heard here) is beautiful! It’s also painfully short. Thank goodness it isn’t a one-off single because that would be just too much of a tease! Bound To Rise is the title track for Brain’s debut LP, a collection of live setting performances, recorded to analog tape. There is a warmth to these recordings, but one item that rises like cream to the top is the production quality. Instruments are beautifully blended, while Brain’s vocals are always front and center. None of these represents a lot of time. The entire LP weighs in at just under 27 minutes. Each track features alternate tunings and fingerpicking styles, often uncovering minor keys that resolve. 

Chris Brain
Chris Brain

Additional instrumental elements are provided by Simeon Walker (piano), and Mary Jane Walker (violin), while Brain leads things with his guitar and voice. The minimalist nature of these songs is part of the charm. There’s just enough instrument to give the songs a deeper feeling. In short, this is not just a *good* debut LP, but a GREAT one. 

You can find more information on Chris Brain by heading up to his very complete website. Here you’ll find everything that you are looking for, a nice, if short bio, an introduction to the debut LP, and (I’m not joking here), a list of Brain’s musical influences which includes Nick Drake. [I didn’t read his website before starting to write this review!] The website also includes links to social and streaming sites, as well as a music link, which takes you to Brain’s site

Consider picking up this great folk-pop offering from Chris Brain! Vodka hopes to hear much more from this artist in the future.

Note: There is a reason to be cautiously optimistic about the trajectory of the COVID 19 virus. We’ve been here before and were turned back by the variants. Even with things improving, artists such as Chris Brain could still use your purchases. If your situation allows it, consider purchasing more in these tough times.  Please, if you are physically able to do so, get vaccinated. — Vodka