Review: Jim Allchin – ‘Decisions’

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, set for release in June of 2017. The 14 new 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, Pat Buchannan and Rob McNelly on guitar, 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 easygoing four-on-the-floor groove with hot horns and blistering 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 whips out all the Nashville cat tricks on the blazing boogie woogie instrumental “Just Plain Sick,” trading hot licks like old pros. The barn-burning “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 toady’s 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 on the record 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 Gary Moore. The tender tribute “My Father’s Eyes” will touch the hearts 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 guitars-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.

(Decisions is available for pre-order via jimallchin.com. Watch the trailer video for Decisions below via YouTube.)

Rick Bowen

Rick grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan playing in school band, choir and show bands. While earning a BA at Western Michigan University in History and Social Science, he was a member of the Bronco marching band and jazz ensemble Gold Company. Moving to the Northwest in 1994, Rick soon landed gigs and sessions with many diverse local artists and is currently a member of the award winning Stacy Jones Band and the host of the all ages School of Jam. Rick is also an associate producer and session musician for Critical Sun Recordings, a contributing writer at Innocent Words, Seattle Examiner, No Depression, The Washington Blues Society and S.T.E.A.M magazine, and serves on the board of directors for the Washington Blues Society. Rick is endorsed by and plays THUMPER CUSTOM DRUMS. Awards: Washington Blues Society “Best of the Blues” award 2009 Best New Band –Stacy Jones Band WBS “Best of the Blues” award 2012 Best Blues Jam - Oxford Saloon Monday Night Jam 2013 & 2014 WBS Best Blues Writer award. 2014 WBS Chris Leighton Blues Drummer BB Award. Nominations: 2009 & 2013 Best Blues Drummer WBS BB awards. 2012 Best NW recording “No Need To Spell it Out –Stacy Jones Band (Rick J Bowen co producer)