Overdrive is an important element of making a powerful electric guitar album, and while a lack of virtuosity can’t be compensated for through top-shelf amplification exclusively, developing a solid tone is the cornerstone of producing any quality instrumental LP, regardless of the genre. Robert Bussey is a guitar wizard who takes every aspect of his sound more seriously than most, and in his new album I Dug a Well, tonality rules supreme in every one of the ten songs comprising its tracklist. This man is a master of his craft, and even the subtlest of details reflect that here.
You can’t reproduce the kind of emotion we find in “Changing the Channel,” “The Drill Bit” and “Lost River Underground” with the use of synthetic components; in order to get the most out of compositions of this caliber, you’ve got to hash everything out on the fretboard (which Bussey does rather marvelously, I should add). There’s no need for lyrical explanation in any of these tracks, but instead only a cranked volume knob and the devoted attention of an audience – both of which are easily attainable anytime I Dug a Well is played.
The sophistication of Bussey’s performance takes a backseat to the provocative tone of the rhythm in “Come to the Water Table,” “Banging Into Bedrock” and “The Alluvial Aquifer,” but at no point in the LP does he ever sound like he’s slacking behind the six-string. On the contrary, he seems to get more focused from one track to the next, no matter the order we’re listening to them in. There’s a progressive underpinning to this content that makes it hard to put down I Dug a Well once it’s been picked up for the first time, and it exists whether listening to the album on shuffle or straight through as originally intended.
I would love to hear Bussey’s cover of “The Pump,” as well as “Hope Springs Eternal” and “Breaking New Ground” live and in-person sometime, mostly just to witness his process in stringing together the melodic faceting here for myself. His performance is such a seamless article in the fabric of the music that it’s difficult to imagine the arranging and mixing of I Dug a Well being anything less than grueling to the average player or producer. Nothing about this work is ‘average,’ and thus, we’re gifted one of the more complete virtuoso offerings of the summer season so far in its tracks.
Guitar aficionados looking for something special to hit the spot this season needn’t search any further beyond I Dug a Well for certain satisfaction, and though he’s not the lone source for intriguing melodies at the moment, I think Robert Bussey proves himself to be one of the best at what he does in his scene here. There are neither cockiness nor cold-feeling synthesizers to come between his heart and the audience he’s put in front of, and for a contemporary rock genre lacking in real heroes nowadays, his is quite the refreshing spin on old school muscularity.