April 13, 2024
Bernard Allison – Luther’s Blues

Bernard Allison – Luther’s Blues

Ruf Records RUF 1303


20 songs – 94 minutes

Guitarist Luther Allison was one of the most intense performers of all time, and son Bernard provides living proof that the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree with this beefy album, taking 18 songs from his dad’s catalog and two that they co-wrote and reinventing them for a 21st century audience.

A Chicago native who’s been part of the blues scene since Luther introduced him to Muddy Waters, Hound Dog Taylor, Albert King and others at festivals in the ‘70s, Bernard got his first six-string at age 12, but didn’t start performing professionally until he graduated from high school, picking up additional tips from Johnny Winter and Stevie Ray Vaughan and quickly joining Koko Taylor’s road band to start touring the world.

Bernard’s been a headliner in his own right since the mid-‘80s but began serving as Luther’s bandleader in Europe at the end of the decade, during which he released his debut album, The Next Generation, and he worked with dad until his death in 1997, posthumously earned the Blues Music Association’s contemporary blues artist of the year award the following spring.

Throughout his career, which now spans about 20 CDs, Bernard has consistently kept his father’s legacy in the forefront. A two-time BMA nominee who topped the Billboard Blues Chart with his Highs & Lows CD in 2022, Allison was in his mid-20s in 1992 when he recorded the opener, “Hang On,” in Paris. Previously recorded by Bernard and co-written with Luther, it retains much of the feel of the original, supercharged from the start and blazing throughout. “Reaching Out,” a sweet song of love, flows lightly throughout and features a stellar horn solo.

“Too Many Women” changes the mood from the jump with a funky, mid-tempo beat. It flows into the slow-and-steady “Into My Life,” another soulful pleaser that entices a new, potential lady. The first of two monster Luther hits, “Serious,” opens at a whisper and builds in passion throughout while “Bad Love” powers steadily and includes a stellar keyboard workout. The funk kicks in with “Now You Got It,” a vow to be always at his woman’s side, before the tender “Love Is Free,” the Southern soul pleaser, “Midnight Creeper,” and “Help,” a blazing, hard rocker, end the first disc.

A driving shuffle, “Back Down South” turns up the blues to 11 as Allison accents the need to relocate with his lady to stop her from underestimating his strengths and driving the message home with fretwork that would have Bernard smiling. The quiet, funky “I Gave It All” promises the woman plenty of fun ahead before “Life Is a Bitch” kicks off a different feel from the downstroke. The focus shifts to Bernard’s voice for the moving ballad, “Let’s Try It Again,” a stripped-down arrangement that gives space for the keys and horns to shine.

The uptempo, Chicago-style “Change Your Way of Living” turns the heat up dramatically before the stop-time “You’re Gonna Need Me” comes complete with West Side Windy City appeal. “Compromising for Your Needs,” the other song Luther co-wrote but never recorded, shows Bernard at his best before the tender “A Change Must Come,” the horn-driven “Move From the Hood” and “Castle,” an acoustic ballad, bring the set to a close.

A stunning set from start to finish, Luther’s Blues serves as a wonderful tribute to an artist we lost far too soon. But it’s more than that. Bernard Allison is gifted, mature artist who’s put his own stamp on this material and taken it farther than it’s gone before. Strongly recommended.

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