Allchin, Jim – Overclocked
A broad buffet of blues, with some corporate style.
Label: Sandy Key Music
Time: 13 tracks / 51 minutes
Reading Jim Allchin’s interviews and hearing his music reminds me of Johnny Rotten’s lyric: “I know what I want and I know how to get it.” Allchin grew up on a Florida dirt farm, but helped start Microsoft’s server business in the 1990s after getting a Ph.D. in Computer Science. Clearly smart and ambitious, he recently left the corporate world to concentrate on what he enjoys – playing blues guitar.
Having experimented with every facet of recording on his 2009 début, he is now putting the lessons he learned into practice on his second release. But what comes out of a disc usually reflects what went in. Old blues players who grew up disenfranchised had only their soul to put into the music and so it would often pour through the speakers as sonic emotion; Allchin has lived high up in the polished business world and there is something a bit corporate about this collection.
Overclocked is an IT term, meaning that a computer has been deliberately modified to make it over-perform – but at the risk of it overheating to the point of melting down. This work is never at risk of meltdown, even on the brisk boogie-blues of the title track. About half of the set, despite being well-played and very smooth, is largely take-it-or-leave-it. Allchin spreads his definition of blues wide, almost touching jazz, rock and ballads, so there is a lack of focus. There’s even a light-hearted feel to “Back in the Swamp”, a song about a cheat getting his come-uppance. It has horns playing, but still has the feel of a well-produced dance band playing a business bash.
Of the better material, best of all are two fine instrumentals. “Fall” starts inconspicuously and builds until it soars, while “Opening My Eyes to Love” starts melodically, with a just a hint of Mediterranean spice, and floats on a breeze of sustain. If the whole album were like these two, this piece would read very differently.
These have all the advantages of Allchin’s sumptuous guitar tones without the dampening effect of his vocals that is so noticeable on songs like the gutless “Dr. J.” To add vocal clout, he has had the sense to pull in Keeley Witney for her gravelly, life-lived voice on “One for the Journey” and “Perfect Game,” where she stokes up some heat. “Don’t Tell Me What to Do” is another standout, thanks to some attitude that comes out in both vocals and a very strong guitar solo that is allowed to develop.
Allchin plays crisply throughout and gets a lovely range of tones from his guitar, but the disc is politely pleasant and really only excites the listener in sporadic bursts.
Download: Fall, Opening My Eyes to Love, Don’t Tell Me What to Do.