Fret board aficionados, tone junkies and fans of hot stove blues guitar will be glad to hear the return of Seattle guitarist Jim Allchin, who is preaching to the choir on his third album “Decisions.” The 14 tracks were recorded at the famed Blackbird Studio in Nashville by a production team led by Grammy winning producer, drummer and songwriter Tom Hambridge. The group of A list players involved also includes Michael Rhodes on Bass, Reese Wynans on piano and Hammond B3, Guitarists Pat Buchannan and Rob McNelly and the “Heart Attack Horns,” led by Bill Bergman and Lee Thornburg. If this wasn’t enough fire power Allchin and Hambridge recruited Niki Crawford, Wendy Moten, Seattle soul man Mycle Wastman and international blues super star Keb’ Mo’ to join in on vocals, rounding out the all-star team.
The core quartet opens the album on the rockin’ blues shuffle ‘Artificial Life,’ with Allchin extolling the turmoil and tribulations of the modern-day working man blues. The team then heads south of the border on a rollicking trip to ‘The Mexican End,’ an easy going four-on-the-floor groove with hot horns and lead guitar. Allchin then cranks up the volume for the heavy hitting track ‘Bad Decisions,’ featuring more molten fret work and organ from Wynans on one of several songs co-written by Hambridge. The mood mellows for the introspective ‘Healing Ground,’ with Allchin trading verses with Keb’ Mo’ speaking to the precious gift of life that surrounds us and the power of healing available to all, if we will only listen.
The house rockin’ shuffle ‘Blew Me Away’ features the “Heart Attack Horns,” who bolster Allchin’s guitar chops on a good old-fashioned song about falling in love at first sight. The piano driven ‘She Is It’ continues the theme as he testifies to the virtues of the love of his life during the easy pop ballad. The gang whip out all the Nashville cat tricks on the blazing boogie woogie instrumental ‘Just Plain Sick,’ trading hot licks like old pros. The barn-burning slow blues ‘Friends’ rolls out like a staple from the B.B King songbook, with Allchin delivering a sermon on trust and being wary of fair-weather toadies and sycophants. Allchin dons an acoustic guitar to emphasize his point and our need for peace and understanding delivered via the easy-going country blues of ‘You Might Be Wrong,’ celebrating our differences in a party atmosphere to sell an important life lesson. The second instrumental in this collection centers around soaring guitar melodies and intertwining harmonic lines that ebb and flow with emotion. The edgy ‘Don’t Care’ finds Allchin playing the role of a man done wrong and standing his ground while his guitar does most of the talking. He then digs deeper into the blues for the torch song ‘Stop Hurting Me,’ featuring dulcet piano from Wynans and a solo from Allchin that rips like Garry Moore. The tender tribute ‘My Father’s Eyes,’ will touch the heart of anyone who lost a parent at an early age and longs for them to know how much they are missed and still loved. The album closes with a third guitar-driven instrumental simply titled ‘Destiny,’ with Allchin pouring out the passion he feels for this magical instrument, through his fingertips.
Jim Allchin describes the collection in the album notes as a study in the decisions we make in our life about identity, relationships, and “how to live life authentically.” Themes reflected in the lyrical content and in the choice of every note from his cerebral guitar work and soulful vocals. This is quite an album; the stuff dreams are made of.