by Brandon Findlay | August 17, 2011

New Yorker Chris Bergson's newest effort, Imitate The Sun, is quite a modern record, in that like the better and best albums out there right now, there is no easy pigeonhole- much less genre- to comfortably shelve the project. It offers ten helpings of satisfying blue-eyed soul, sad bastard storytelling, and tasty ensemble textures - where Bergson's voice, then guitar, prove to be both wise leaders, and worthy centers of attention.

Voice and guitar centered moments, such as "Shattered Avenue" and the brushed snare backing of "Laying it Down in White," as well as the throwback 1920's vaudeville blues of "You've Been a Good Old Wagon" are the softer side of a project inspired by subtlety, melody and intimacy. Sax master Jay Collins (Gregg Allman Band, Levon Helm Rambles, and twelve dozen other fine projects) follows Bergson's melodic hushed slide on "Wagon" with appropriate blowing that honors one heritage as much as the soulfood lines on "Mr. Jackson" and "Hello Bertha" offer proper homage to their own predecessors. Kenny Rampton, trumpet, and Chris Karlic on baritone saxophone flank Collins on his charts for "Bertha" and "Jackson" with appropriate flavor and spark.

"Imitate The Sun", and "Goin' Home" effectively prove his songwriting chops, and "Down in the Bottom," a lesser-known Willie Dixon trip, shows good sense, but it is the album closer, Dylan's "Standing in the Doorway," where Bergson earns his cred as an interpreter. Like earlier, he chooses to find the song's soul with a lush, warm guitar and introspective vocals. Listening to it, one ends up feeling that ITS is a modern soul album, especially once Bruce Katz starts swelling the Hammond beneath, choosing his colors and strokes carefully. Drummer Tony Leone and bassist Matt Clohesy give solid, ample support and often groove rightfully from a soul perspective, as opposed to more heavy-handed blues and funk approaches. After all, as the Master Zimmerman notes in said masterpiece, "... it always means so much.... even the softest touch...."

The secret weapon, as he often ends up, is keyboardist Bruce Katz. Bergson is the doubtless star, but a perfect sideman knows how to present, and perfect, the artist's vision. Whether it's the grand acoustic bluesiness of "Down in the Bottom" or "Dust My Broom," the Tin-Pan tinkle of "Wagon", the laidback funkiness of his Wurlitzer lines, or his trademark Hammond organ-icness, Katz is the unheralded glue that binds the magic of his band mates together, and fails not to stress the profound difference between underpinning a success and supporting an effort.

This is an album with a lot to like. It embraces and celebrates the same musical roots that influenced sounds as diverse as Gov't Mule, Widespread Panic and The Dead. It tends to synthesize the mixture into a fresh sounding bag of goodness. Bergson's lower-pitched tenor tends to emphasize taste and ornament over range, and his semi-hollow Gibson tones put him between the late Little Milton and Warren Haynes's current sound du jour, which is just fine for this ten pack of blues and soul nuggets. It is a fun record, but it is more subtle than celebratory, and the storytelling, though not quite cinema verite, is far from summer blockbuster. It is, in the end, a welcome record of American music that could/should/would be enjoyed by a variety of ears across the core genres of blues, soul, and rootsy rock & roll.