On “Bullet to the Brain,” the first single from his debut album Autobiography of a Thief, Christopher Carithers sings “Excuse me officer, kill your lights / I ain’t slowing down tonight.” The imagery conjures more than the desperation of a suspicious protagonist (although it does that quite well too): it speaks to the album’s very nature. Because even during its ballads & gentler numbers, Autobiography of a Thief glides along effortlessly like a ghost train through the coal fields of eastern Pennsylvania where Carithers resides.

Album opener “The Spokes of the Collapse” is a fever dream smoldering in strong acoustic downstrokes and dark harmonics. The sound of crickets chirping beneath starry skies beautifully underscores the tender “Lullaby,” while “Do Unto Others” introduces some of the album’s most elegantly abrasive lines: “There ain’t a heart that your brain couldn’t kill / you laugh like a spider bite.”

Wailing harmonicas accent slide guitars and bright acoustics throughout, as Christopher invokes Steinbeck & Sallinger, Workingman’s Dead & Bob Dylan’s enigmatic “John Wesley Harding.” These songs walk us past painted porches & familiar faces, and pause us beside rusting bridges. The buoyant, fingerpicked instrumental “Isabella” closes the album with a celebration of newborn life. It’s a fitting climax for an album filled with stories of experience & possibility.