Jim Allchin,
(Sandy Key Music, 2017)

Jim Allchin has an interesting history. With advanced degrees from Stanford and Georgia Tech, he had a long career in computer science while playing music on the side. In 2007, he turned to the blues full time, and now has issued Decisions, his third solo album. For this release, he has done everything right: went to Nashville and recorded in the famous Blackbird Studio, brought in Grammy winner Tom Hanbridge to produce the CD and gathered a set of big-time players to back him, including Keb Mo and the Heart Attack Horns.

All of this would lead you to believe that Decisions is something special. So you have to wonder why it isn't a better album than it is. Allchin is a fine guitarist; he brings skill and talent to the instrument and when you hear him play, you know you're hearing the real thing. His voice is serviceable; many singers with lesser voices are doing quite well. The man can growl the blues, that's for sure.

So why don't I love this album? For me, the problem is in the production. Reese Wynan's Hammond B-3 is the dominant instrument in the mix and, God, does it dominate. It's everywhere. Rather than serve the tunes, it becomes actively off-putting, causing you to wonder who thought it was a good idea to have Allchin overpowered by his supporting instruments. It distracts, rather than enhances.

The overall mix is muddy and unclear. Instruments are lost, while others predominate. On most songs, all you can hear clearly are the guitar, the Hammond and the drums. The bass and the horn section are lost in the mix.

It's too bad. Allchin deserves better.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

15 July 2017

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