Chris Bergson Band
Imitate the Sun
(2011, 2 Shirts Records)
Many of those lucky enough to have been present for a legendary Midnight Ramble at Levon Helm’s home/studio in Woodstock will immediately pick up on the evocative voice of Chris Bergson, a frequent opening act. Imitate the Sun, the guitarist and singer’s sixth solo outing, is a hearty bouillabaisse of blues, soul, funk, and jazz influences. Bergson and his band, which includes Jay Collins (tenor and baritone sax), Bruce Katz (organ, piano), Matt Clohesy (bass), and Tony Leone (drums, percussion), clearly have chops to spare.
That being said, the most satisfying moments are the open spaces that put Bergson’s tough-but-tender vocals in the lonely spotlight. For a performer born in New York and raised in Massachusetts, there is a definite Southern streak in his pipes. On the best tracks, like “Shattered Avenue” and “Laying It Down in White,” the instrumentation is spare; all the better to lose the listener in Bergson’s distinctive vocal. This template is stunning on “Shattered Avenue”; the desolate electric slide guitar gives searing resonances to lyrics like “so this is the life of luxury / overlooking KFC / Shattered Avenue don’t bother me.” However, it’s jarring when the next tune, “Hello Bertha,” sweeps away that louche, wastrel vibe with its jaunty Stax-style horns. The album suffers slightly from an overreliance on covers, which is puzzling, as Bergson’s original material seems more than capable of carrying the load on its own. The Chris Bergson Band will play on December 12 at Club Helsinki in Hudson. www.chrisbergson.com.