CHRIS BRAIN – Bound To Rise (Big Sun Records, BSR-001)

Bound To RiseBound To Rise is the quietly impressive debut album from Yorkshireman Chris Brain. His songs have a gentleness and ethereality, enhanced by his softly husky, smoky vocals coupled with delicate finger-picked guitar patterns based around his alternate tunings.

The self-composed songs draw on the pastoral and the traditional, heavily centred in natural imagery featuring both as itself and as allegory. A misty ambiguity, suggestions of layered meaning and hints of multiple interpretations permeate the lyrics. And darker moods throw long shadows across this landscape.

A pre-dawn longing for the sun in title track ‘Bound To Rise’ seems to obliquely evoke springtime, primitive beliefs and lifting mood. ‘Bird Count’ is another daybreak song hinting at other, more intimate, preoccupations, “calling out your name / never to be tame”.

‘Chance To See’ celebrates the emotional significance of a relationship, and it’s easy to interpret ‘Golden Eagle’ as its flipside partner, “but you can’t choose her, she chooses you” – or maybe it’s simply a song about birdwatching. ‘Flying On Time’ continues with rare sightings paired with impressions of human air travel and distance, “she’s due tonight / just for one night / to visit our skies”.

Non-specific doubt and uncertainty edgily patrol ‘If I Could’, whilst the cheerfully pattering guitar motif of ‘Peace And Quiet’ belies an inner melancholy, and ‘Rare Find’ charmingly bookends Mary Jane Walker’s plangent violin and Simeon Walker’s subtle piano.

‘Sunday Morn’ “lays the week to rest” amongst other things but, despite the laid-back vibe, all is not sunny and “melancholy calls to greet us once more”. Brain’s songs are intriguing shifts of light and shade, and the details improve with each listen.

Coming full circle thematically, the joyous simplicity of expression in ‘Sun Song’ makes it close kin to the mighty Bright Phoebus, “the sun was born and she’s beautiful / the sun was born from the ground”. It’s an optimistic ending to an emotionally ambiguous album.

Influenced by, among others, Nick Drake, John Martyn and Joni Mitchell, it’s not hard to see where Chris Brain is coming from. More interesting is where he’s going to. Bound To Rise makes a very promising start.

Su O’Brien

Artist website:

‘Chance To See’ – live:


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