This old proverb ‘strike while the iron is hot’ quickly comes to mind when reviewing the new album “Prime Blues” from pacific Northwest guitar man, Jim Allchin. For it clearly alludes to the imagery of the blacksmith at his forge; if he delays shaping the iron when it is hot and pliable the metal soon cools and hardens, and the opportunity is lost. Allchin astutely heeded this council while hard on the heels of his critically-acclaimed and chart-topping 2017 album “Decisions” and continued running with its winning formula.
In spring of 2018 he returned to the vaunted Blackbird Studios in Nashville to collaborate again with Grammy-winning producer, songwriter and drummer Tom Hambridge and his team. To kick up the flavor a notch the duo invited special guests Mike Zito, Bobby Rush and The Memphis Horns to add their special sauce to the recipe. The result is a savory collection of 14 amazing new tracks that dig deeper into the blues and prove the notion that indeed “lightning can strike twice.”
A growling guitar riff and a horn-drenched blues rocker ‘Give it Up’ opens the set of “Prime Blues” with Allchin encouraging us all to find our inner truth. Kevin McKendree spares with Allchin on the Hammond B3 on the greasy blues ‘Devil Don’t Sleep.’ The crew then heads down to the bayou to sing the praises of an enchanting Cajun queen for the swampy ‘Voodoo Doll,’ and keep the groove sexy with enticing rocker ‘Snuggle Up.’ Allchin flat out rips on the full tilt instrumental ‘Jimmy’s Boogie,’ and the horns return for the sweet Memphis-styled love song ‘Summer Sunrise.’
Mike Zito steps up to the mic for the Texarkana stomp ‘Enough Is Enough’ that features another gritty solo from Allchin and fiery honkytonk piano from McKendree. Bob Britt from the Delbert McClinton band sits in on the swinging autobiography ‘Found The Blues’ that has Allchin detailing how “music blew his muse” and most likely saved his life.
The full force of The Memphis Horns and a six-piece Nashville band are brought to bear on the bump and grind blues ‘Two Bad Dreams’ to complement the paramount personality that is Bobby Rush. Next Allchin picks up his acoustic guitar for the old-time tale of hard luck and trouble ‘Pawn Shop Man,’ before shredding more hot leads on the sizzling Chicago blues shuffle ‘Lost My Mind.’ The soul-searching track ‘Up To Destiny’ mixes thought-provoking lyrics with pop music sensibilities on an arrangement that has a bit of Santana-like appeal. The patented double shuffle from Hambridge creates an authentic motif for Allchin’s tongue-in-cheek dig at our obsession with cell phones on witty ‘Tech Blues.’ The final track ‘Logoff’ serves as a clever double entendre, with the bluesy groove serving notice to the end of bad love and the poetic finale of the grand adventure that is the album “Prime Blues.” Once again, we are blessed to have Jim Allchin share with us his quest for universal truths and superb guitar tone on what could prove to be his crowning achievement.