Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Chris Bergson's Bluesy Americana

Chris Bergson is a New York singer-songwriter-guitarist who mixes R&B, rock, country and folk roots for a most enjoyable set of ‘Americana’ with a definite blues accent. His music resume includes stints with jazz singers Annie Ross, Dena DeRose, Sasha Dobson and Norah Jones, but in recent years he has infused more blues in his music. His latest CD Imitate the Sun, (2 Shirts Records) has six originals along with four covers. The only member of the band on this that I have heard of is Bruce Katz who is on keyboards, but also of note is Jay Collins who provides several sax solos as well as arranges horns for several selections.

Listening to the opening
Goin’ Home as well as the title song, I am reminded of the classic The Band recordings as well as contemporary acts such as Anders Osborn that similarly mix roots, country, rock and blues. These are nice crafted songs with a solid rhythm section and Collins lays down a tough tenor solo on the title track while Bergson struts out on guitar. He knows when not to get too heavy and he sings naturally with just the right amount of grit. Shattered Avenue opens with just lightly layered slide guitar behind his lugubrious vocal. With a insistent funk groove and riffing horns, Hello Bertha has a different feel and, Katz’s keyboard accompaniment provides nice accents to the performance. The cover of Willie Dixon’s Meet Me In the Bottom, a rootsy rendition of a song associated with Howlin’ Wolf that benefits from the almost reggae stutter step in the accompaniment with Bergson being a bit more emphatic vocally here.

The folky,
Laying It Down In White, is followed by the unusual choice of You’ve Been a Good Ole Wagon, a song most associated with Bessie Smith. It opens with just Katz’s piano for the first verse of the vocal harking backing to the twenties in his playing before the whole band joins in. Collins’ tenor sax being notable in the accompaniment and Bergson takes a slide solo. The mood changes to funk on Mr. Jackson, with Katz having a nice electric piano solo. Dust My Broom has been recorded numerous times. Bergson’s shuffle arrangement takes it away from the usual broom-dusting and rambling on my mind riffs. Katz has a rollicking solo in addition to Bergson’s insistent twangy, chicken scratching guitar and an insistent vocal. A thoughtful rendition of Bob Dylan’s Standing in the Doorway, closes this consistently strong recording. Chris Bergson excels at writing songs, his vocals covey warmth and sincerity, and he is a thoughtful, imaginative good guitarist who plays with the right mix of fire and taste. Recommended.
My review copy was provided by publicist for label

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