MOJO Magazine's #2 Blues Album of 2011
"One of the most inventive songwriters in modern blues music." Richard Skelly, All Music Guide
Hailed by Living Blues as "A Serious Talent", New York guitarist, singer and songwriter Chris Bergson is that exceptionally rare individual with the burgeoning talent and emotional reserve to embrace fully the indigenous music of the South, along with R&B, rock and folk.
Born in New York City but raised in Somerville, Massachusetts, Chris Bergson returned to Manhattan in 1995. While backing jazz singers Annie Ross, Dena DeRose, Sasha Dobson and Norah Jones, he released Blues for Some Friends of Mine and Wait for Spring on Juniper Records in 1997 and 2000, respectively. In 2002 Bergson was appointed a Jazz Ambassador of the USA by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and he toured Africa with his trio. Evolving to further embrace the blues while also adding pop influences, he followed up with Blues (2003), Another Day (2005) and his triumphant artistic breakthrough, the widely acclaimed Fall Changes (2007) -- MOJO’s #1 Blues Album of 2008 -- that established him as an eloquent, evocative and lyrical songwriter with a sharp urban vision. Recorded at Levon Helm’s Woodstock studio, it led to Bergson being personally invited to perform at the famed drummer’s Midnight Rambles while opening the way for more stateside festivals and subsequent tours of Europe. Bergson has performed and shared the stage with Hubert Sumlin, Little Sammy Davis, Etta James, John Hammond, Bettye LaVette, and Levon Helm, to name just a few.
Imitate the Sun contains six strikingly original songs and four thoughtful covers that allow his fertile creativity free rein. With his regular band of Jay Collins (tenor and baritone saxes, backing vocals, horn arrangements), Matt Clohesy (bass) and Tony Leone (drums, percussion) augmented by Bruce Katz (organ, piano, Wurlitzer organ), Kenny Rampton (trumpet) and Chris Karlic (baritone sax), Bergson makes every track a complete and rewarding musical statement. “Goin’ Home” has the easy lope, elastic groove and pastoral Americana ambience reminiscent of the Band at which Bergson excels. Addressing the classic theme of returning to the familiarity and comfort of the mythic “home” for which so many people long, he amplifies his yearning with twangy, pedal steel-style “pickin’ ‘n grinnin’” and tasty down home embellishments. The title track presents a dramatic soul groove with an uplifting chorus, a gleefully honking tenor solo from Collins and the poignant lyric of “…soon I'm gonna imitate the sun, after days of having his rays, obscured by smog and storms, breaks through the clouds, shines on down, blinding all below..." delivered with his emotive and convincing growl. Again his guitar speaks its piece as Bergson squeezes its neck until it shouts back in defiance.
“Shattered Avenue” is an atmospheric solo country blues lament showcasing his masterful, authentic and bone-chilling electric slide guitar. In a measured voice all the more powerful for its restraint, Bergson adds to the blues canon as he ruefully charges his lover with, “…spend half your life tryin’ to soothe your mind, sayin’ everything’s all right.” A dynamic change of pace follows with the minor key, horn-driven Memphis soul of “Hello Bertha.” Paying homage to a woman of easy virtue with sympathy for her lot in life while simultaneously acknowledging the value of her services, he sings, “Shakin’ off the shackles of another shady week” and “Hello Bertha, it’s good to see you again.” With his rhythm section locked-in to a taut but limber pocket, he unfurls an amazing “vocal” guitar solo shorn of the histrionics a lesser instrumentalist may have been tempted to indulge.
A surging, churning cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s classic Delta blues romp “Down in the Bottom” plays to one of Bergson’s many strengths as his natural, unaffected bluesy drawl is complimented by his layered slide and lead guitars. Veteran and stellar keyboardist Katz, who provides invaluable backing throughout, adds piquant acoustic piano that contrasts texturally with the jubilantly grinding axes. Dramatically switching moods and modes, Bergson next features a poetic love song cast as a gentle, wistful blues ballad. “Laying It Down in White” brilliantly employs the melancholy imagery of “taking out the Christmas tree and laying it down in white…on the stoop, New Year’s day, snow driftin’ by…” as the metaphor for his insecurity regarding his lover’s true intentions. Turning down the volume, he accompanies his heartfelt vocal with subtle fingerpicked rhythm and silky smooth lead guitars. The metaphors continue on the Bessie Smith classic “You’ve Been a Good Old Wagon” (“…mama, but you done broke down”) with both Bergson and Katz channeling the 1920s era of the classic women blues singers. Displaying slide licks reminiscent of Hawaiian guitar, the leader is followed by tenor man Collins who lists Gregg Allman as one of his other employers.
Bergson creates another memorable and conniving street character on “Mr. Jackson” to go with “The Bungler” from Fall Changes. An exuberant chunk of funk, it features his hip, jivey lyrics and vocals along with a sprightly guitar solo egged on by the bleating horn section and the dancing piano fingers of Katz. Maintaining the high spirits, Bergson plays against type on the Elmore James classic “Dust My Broom” by eschewing the expected slide guitar for a spiky solo intensified by the muscular barrelhouse piano of Katz. Following the stomping blues shuffle, he ends his latest musical chapter on an elegiac note with a plaintive reading of Bob Dylan’s “Standing in the Doorway.” Starting quietly with just his rhythm guitar for accompaniment, Bergson builds the longest track on the album to a musical and emotional catharsis. Once again proving himself a worthy interpreter of the “bard,” he gets deep inside the bittersweet lyrics, laying bare his feeling as only the great artists have the courage and confidence to do.
Chris Bergson is a young man on a mission with his blues-breaking guitar, passionate vocals and literate lyrics. He is out to leave an indelible mark on the world of music and succeeding spectacularly with life-affirming art that both consoles and excites. The sum total is an impressive and growing body of work that reaches across the ages and boundaries.
Dave Rubin, 2005 Winner of KBA in Journalism
"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. 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." Blues Revue
"Upon first hearing guitar man Chris Bergson and his gravely southern drawl, which is a combination of Levon Helm and Gregg Allman, you can hardly believe this guy is from New York City. Imitate the Sun displays an artist dedicated to bringing blues and classic R&B into the future while honoring the past." No Depression.com
"The ambience of Chris Bergson's music is an Edward Hopper world of suspicion and solitude, dusk-time avenues and dimly lit bars...This is the terrain of Tom Waits and Lou Reed, and Bergson has something of each in his gruff, laconic delivery, but his sound is intransigently his own." MOJO, #2 Blues Album of 2011
"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…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..." Jambands.com
"Smoky flavors wafting from New York City up to the Catskill Mountains infiltrate the unfussy music of the Chris Bergson Band. Bergson's a spry, supple guitarist with an earthy singing voice and a blues-grounded heart...Keep a sharp eye on this guy." Hittin’ the Note