Living Blues
October 2017, Issue #251

by Wayne Goins

Chris Bergson has delivered another solid disc with Bitter Midnight, with Craig Dreyer on keys and Matt Clohesy on bass on most of the tracks, and with Tony Mason on drums rather than Tony Leone who performed on the 2014 albumn Live at Jazz Standard.

Things get kicked off with Pedal Tones, a tight clavichord funk-filled blues with inventive lyrics ("window cracked, a little cognac, laughter in the night air.").

Inspired by "a Monet painting I saw in Paris" of a train crossing railroad bridge over a river, 5:20 is a hard-driving shuffle, about a train that left Chris "stranded and drowning, molecules rearranged."

If the tune
Just Before the Storm seems familiar, it's because it premiered on his last album. "At the time , " says Chris, "it was a really new song that had just been written." Almost three years later, the tune evolved. "I wanted to get a nice studio version of this tune I co-wrote with Ellis Hooks and Craig Dreyer." This sad soul music features a crisp, short guitar solo that boasts a tight tele tone from Bergson's guitar.

Knuckles & Bones finds his familiar sidekick Ellis Hooks singing lead (who can effortlessly merge Sam Moore's and Otis Redding's spirits. Meanwhile, Hooks' and Bergson's voices blend perfectly in this blues boogie complete with horn section punctuation and a driving bass pedal tone.

Explode or Contain is a rollicking 6/8 piece with a clean, dirty slide solo. The song describes the tightrope walk of life, where the "machine is coming apart ," and one has to decide which way to react. His wife, Kate, wrote the lyrics, inspired by a scientific lecture she attended, the words "also apropos to the current political situation," Chris adds.

The feel-good, mediuum tempo blues boogie
61st & 1st, first heard on the live Standard album, is about an evicted hoarder living a strange life in a van
"in the shadows of the bridge is where you need to start..."

Blues For Dave is a revealing Mississippi Delta blues delivered on acoustic slide guitar and accompanied only by spare parts of acoustic bass and drums. The song is a true, personal story inspired by a man who served in Korea back in '52, who, when he knew he was sick, said to his daughter "Lookin' back on my life, I haven't done anything that would make me scared to die."

Small Trouble is the funkiest workout on the album, with a gargling Hammond B3 making its welcome presence. The song is written, says Chris, under the influence of "that Alligator Albert Collins Ice Pickin', Cold Snap period."

Another Day (an updated version of a 2005 release) is a minor key blues that has that familiar Whiter Shade of Pale-ish tempo and organ sound; it's a well written tune of "things left unspoken, not lost but broken." There's a great percussive, rhythmically syncopated organ solo by Craig Dreyer. The closer Bitter Midnight, was co-written (with Ellis Hooks) and enhanced with great horn harmony by former member of the Gregg Allman Band, Jay Collins (Bergson's main horn arranger.) Ellis leads the charge with the infectious hook, "I don't want to fight, I don't get no delight, when bitter midnight comes to call." As for Bergson, both Kings (B.B. and Freddie) permeate his strings. This album is attractively not overproduced; it has a simple, clean sound presence, with few-if any-overdubs. "It's just a band playing live in a room," Chris says. Throughout this expertly balanced mixture of blues, funk, R&B and soul, Bergson sings confidently through taut lyrics with more matured voicals since his extensive touring. This album wsa recorded to tape (not digital) wich yields a much warmer sound in the mixing. That's the way he prefers it, and it's the way you'll like it too.