Jim Allchin and mathematics adds up to Prime Blues

Here is a man from a farm deep in an orange grove in Florida who went to college and learnt computer science, then ended up as a vice president at Microsoft in 1990…not the traditional route for a blues guitarist, but Jim Allchin weathered the poverty of his early years and, more recently, came through the treatment for cancer and then melanoma and he has still found the capacity, the time and the strength to release three albums. He has now completed his fourth and, with Tom Hambridge (yes, it’s him again…the ridiculously talented and hardworking producer, writer and drummer) to assist, Prime Blues is now available. It is an album of fourteen original blues and blues-rock songs, although Jim can’t seem to lose his fascination for mathematics and, as I’m sure you noticed (no, me neither), he has woven maths into the cover art … I quote “On the album cover, study the grill cloth on the guitar amplifier…it visually highlights all of the prime numbers through 1 million using some software I wrote.” So now you know! Jim was responsible for huge tracts of Windows coding so I will forgive him, and just say that this was written on an iMac!

Onto the music and the album opens up with a delicious guitar intro and subtle backing from the Memphis Horns on Give It Up. Jim’s voice isn’t the strongest you’ll hear, but his phrasing and tonality are suited to his style of the blues. He can play the guitar damn well too as the two solos perfectly illustrate. Devil Don’t Sleep encapsulates the genre on this pure blues song as Jim and McKendree on the B3 make this a delight from the first note to the last. The well-constructed guitar solo has pace, space and tone. We go down to the swamp next for Voodoo Doll, with a backing that is complex and clever; Hambridge’s use of the Toms (no pun intended) and cymbals should be part of a course most modern drummers have to sit; the bass is on the button too. Snuggle Up is a little misleading as a title as it is a blues-rock track that would serve as a background for something other than snuggling! Jeff Beck and Satriani had a boogie, so why not Mr Allchin? Jimmy’s Boogie is just that; a boogie filled instrumental with loads of great guitar backed with some piano and an upright bass to make it a little different and ensures your feet keep tapping. Summer Sunrise changes the pace with a soulful Memphis blues as the Horns provide the punctuation. It’s a love song for the modern age as he “keeps a picture of you on my phone”. Enough Is Enough ramps the pace back up for a Texas blues rocker. No moulds were broken as it follows a familiar path, but it is still a hell of a good song with Mike Zito doing a fine job on the vocals. Jim injects some swing into the autobiographic Found The Blues. The guitar is really expressive here, but the real star is the backing…try to listen to the bass and drums as they weave some brilliant patterns. Two Bad Dreams has Bobby Rush at the microphone and on the harmonica doing a fantastic job as Jim and the Memphis Horns grind the blues out behind him. The acoustic guitar makes an appearance on Pawn Shop Man for a down at heel story. The guitar patterns are familiar but the piano solo lifts it above the too familiar. We move to Chicago for the shuffle blues of Lost My Mind. A perfectly judged guitar solo and a rattling piano solo make this great fun. The next track, Up To Destiny, is the only misstep for me; it is nice enough but its poppy approach jars with the rest of this fine album; notwithstanding a good Santanaesque solo. Fortunately, the next track more than makes up for it as Jim rails against the obsessive use of mobile phones with a witty and acerbic edge to the lyrics. The acoustic guitar over the clever double shuffle time signature is just great, as are the brief harp insertions from Bobby Rush. The final track, Logoff, is double-edged as it also refers to the end of “bad love” as well as referencing his computer background. All of this served over a bluesy background and another picked solo of quality.

This is, simply put, a great album…some people may take time to get used to Jim’s vocals and will prefer the more edgy Zito or the true blue vocals of Rush, but please persevere. The instrumentation will reward you massively with its depth and deft touches, and guitar lovers will find more than enough to satisfy their hunger for non-widdley, well crafted and well executed playing.

NINEpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Track Listing:

  1. Give It Up
  2. Devil Don’t Sleep
  3. Voodoo Doll
  4. Snuggle Up
  5. Jimmy’s Boogie
  6. Summer Sunrise
  7. Enough Is Enough
  8. Found The Blues
  9. Two Bad Dreams
  10. Pawn Shop Man
  11. Lost My Mind
  12. Up To Destiny
  13. Tech Blues
  14. Logoff

Musicians:
Jim Allchin: Vocals, Lead Guitar
Bob Britt: Rhythm Guitar (Found The Blues, Pawn Shop Man, Snuggle Up)
Kenny Greenberg: Rhythm Guitar (Give It Up, Devil Don’t Sleep, Jimmy’s Boogie, Summer Sunrise, Enough Is Enough, Lost My Mind, Up To Destiny, Tech Blues)
Tom Hambridge: Drums
Kevin Mckendree: Hammond B3, piano
Rob Mcnelley: Rhythm Guitar (Voodoo Doll, Two Bad Dreams, Logoff)
Bobby Rush: Vocals (Two Bad Dreams), Harmonica (Two Bad Dreams, Tech Blues)
Mycle Wastman: Background Vocals
Glenn Worf : Bass
Mike Zito: Vocals (Enough Is Enough)

The Memphis Horns: Charles Rose, Jim Hoke, Steve B. Hermann, Douglas D. Moffett

Produced By Tom Hambridge

Recorded May-August, 2018 At Blackbird Studios D&H, Nashville TN and Studio 3038, Seattle WA

Jim Allchin and mathematics adds up to Prime Blues

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