The amount of emotional energy a guitar can produce in the right setting cannot be measured by mere mortals like ourselves; it’s a divine property, accessible by anyone but only tangibly created by those with a special talent. If there’s one player making noise in 2021 who has this talent without any need for debate it’s Robert Bussey, and in his new album I Dug a Well, he makes it work for him in a way that is bound to leave a lot of his contemporaries feeling more than a little jealous. His skills are elite, but his passion is truly what makes this a can’t-miss release for guitar nerds like me.
None of the material included in I Dug a Well is overpowering, nor does any specific song stand out as the obvious lead single in this tracklist. Contrarily, outside of the glitzy cover of “The Pump,” all of this music sounds rather cohesively structured as to keep us engaged as we move throughout the album in one steady flow. It’s got a progressive rock flavor I’d deem hard to pin down on the surface level, given the fact nothing here centers on a particularly campy — nor theatrical — centerpiece dominating the narrative of the music.
The production gloss on “The Artesian Well,” “Hope Springs Eternal,” “Breaking New Ground,” and “Lost River Underground” is applied to excess in my opinion, but I can certainly understand why. Bussey isn’t taking any risks when it comes to spotlighting even minor intricacies within his sound, and to his credit, the meticulousness of his vision couldn’t really be accomplished without adding a myriad of stylistic indulgences other artists simply wouldn’t be able to live with. Call it whatever you like, but features like this one show off an artist untethered to trends in the industry today, which is quite respectable in my book.
“The Drill Bit,” “Banging Into Bedrock” and “Changing the Channel” were meant to be heard on a set of surround-sound speakers at max volume, but they don’t necessarily ache with the masculinities a lot of their aesthetical forerunners in the guitar virtuoso genre have. There’s a cut and dry sensibility to almost all of this music that extends even into the areas of intentional inefficiency — the aforementioned songs acknowledged — and it rarely translates as a throwback to otherwise outdated concepts in hard rock. Robert Bussey is too much of an innovator for something so predictable, and that obvious when listening to this record.
In his mission to make legitimate guitar rock relevant to the masses once more, I believe Robert Bussey has struck a critical blow to the monster of mainstream mundanity via I Dug a Well that deserves universal praise this June. He’s got more drive and well-utilized adrenaline in this tracklist than most players with twice the experience and time in the limelight have, and from where I sit it’s going to be awfully difficult for some of his peers to match the strength he’s demonstrating without fail in every song on the album.