Blues Revue

by Kay Cordtz | July / August 2011

Chris Bergson writes memorable songs, sings them with passion, and plays such a mean guitar that the great Hubert Sumlin has been known to sit in at his gigs. Here, Bergson pays homage to Sumlin with stinging, economical guitar, although he still lets loose when it's called for. He shows off all his talents on his third CD, a follow-up to 2009's excellent Fall Changes. Once again he has gathered the best musicians in New York State to assist, the funky rhythm section of Matt Clohesy on bass and Tony Leone on drums, keyboard master Bruce Katz and cool Jay Collins on sax, and each of them contributes moments of brilliance. Together they deliver six new songs by Bergson and his wife Kate Ross, three well-chosen Blues covers and a touching version of a Bob Dylan heartbreaker.

The somewhat autobiographical originals dominate the first part of the record. They include "Shattered Avenue," a salute to his old Brooklyn neighborhood; the enigmatic "Hello Bertha" featuring Kenny Rampton on trumpet and Chris Karlic on baritone sax, and "Laying it Down in White," a dreamy winter memory moved along by Bergson's spare guitar and Clohesy's hypnotic bass. On "Imitate the Sun," Bergson spins out a metaphor for mood swings, which are gorgeously evoked by the saxophone of Jay Collins. For the Blues covers, Bergson made some interesting choices and the band makes the most of them. There's a smoking version of "Dust My Broom," with Bergson's roaring vocals and drop-dead guitar, and Willie Dixon's "Down In the Bottom" rocks from the first guitar riff, doubled by Collins' soulful baritone sax over the coolest beat ever, laid down by Leone. The Bessie Smith number "You've Been A Good Old Wagon" is a wonderful surprise. Bergson croons the bad news over Katz's sparkling piano and Collins' sexy saxophone. Another revelation is Bergson's emotional rendition of Bob Dylan's "Standing in the Doorway." Accompanied by only his guitar and Clohesy's bass until the last few verses, he gets every drop of anguish out of the sad lyrics.