Blues in the Northwest (UK)

by Grahame Rhodes | June 11, 2011

Even though it's been a good long wait, the follow-up to New York City singer / guitarist /writer Chris Bergson's breakthrough album "Fall Changes", is finally with us . . . . and it's a pleasure to report that "Imitate The Sun" reaches the high standards of its predecessor. Bergson is the real deal . . . a mighty fine singer, tasteful guitar player and no mean writer, as evident on the six originals here, co-penned with wife, Kate Ross.

Like "Fall Changes" . . . which was reviewed here and much admired, eventually becoming Mojo magazine's blues album of the year for 2008 . . . Bergson rings the changes, from classic rootsy American rock, some jazzy grooves and plenty of blues. He is again in the company of the great Bruce Katz (organ, piano & Wurlitzer), and the sparkling saxophone of Jay Collins, with the rhythm section of Matt Clohesy (bass) and Tony Leone (drums), with guest horns from Kenny Rampton (trumpet) and Chris Karlic (saxophone).

The opening "Goin' Home" sets the standard, a warm grooving 'down home' ramble reminiscent of The Band at their best, with incise solo from Bergson and great vocal hook; the following title track, "Imitate The Sun" has a soulful feel, with Jay Collins saxophone to the fore with superb solo again from Chris Bergson. "Shattered Avenue" takes the pace down, a slide-driven sparse blues.

Bergson and band hit a Memphis soul groove on "Hello Bertha", with the three-man horn section punching the song along on top of a gritty vocal and guitar solo, on this tale of a woman of loose morals and her 'services'! A grinding version of Howlin' Wolf's "Meet Me In The Bottom" sees some top notch piano from Bruce Katz and Jay Collins honking saxophone. The beautiful "Laying It Down In White" is a highlight here . . . a gentle Christmas and New Year time ballad with delicate fingerpicked guitar and drummer Tony Leone excelling on this.

The decades are turned back for a sprightly cover of "You've Been A Good Old Wagon", recorded by the legendary Bessie Smith . . . . with Messrs. Collins and Katz again shining, and Chris Bergson providing some more sweet slide guitar licks. The high-octane funk workout of "Mr. Jackson" tell the story of a 'street' character, and could almost be a companion piece to "The Bungler" on "Fall Changes" . . . a gem this, with fiery guitar leads and punchy horn section and Bruce Katz's keyboard work of its usual high quality.

The copper-bottomed blues classic "Dust My Broom" is turned into a shuffle, without the usual slide riff and swings in fine style with Bergson's tough soloing. This fine release ends in epic fashion with a 8:34 reading of Bob Dylan's "Standing In My Doorway", which builds from a gentle start with just Bergson's guitar and heartfelt vocal on the bittersweet lyrics, underpinned by Katz's organ, and then the rest of the band . . . wonderful stuff indeed!