“Ferociously talented guitarist, Bernard Allison, singer-songwriter, blues, rock, jazz and funk. Fantastic live album.” - Rock and Blues Muse review Bernard Allison’s new release “SONGS FROM THE ROAD”
By Martine Ehrenclou
The ferociously talented Bernard Allison, guitarist, singer-songwriter and son of the great Chicago bluesman Luther Allison, releases Songs From The Road on January 31st via Ruf Records. The album is out on CD and DVD. This review is based on the CD.
Captured live at a packed music club in Dortmund, Germany, this live set is so raw and real that contemporary bluesman Bernard Allison and his crack band leap out of your speakers with virtuosic talent and superb, catchy blues mixed with rock, R&B, jazz and funk from Bernard’s collection since he began his solo career in the 1990s.
If you haven’t heard much of Bernard Allison’s music as he’s based in France, Songs From The Road is a great place to start as it captures some of his best cuts from his latest album, Let It Go, and other releases such as Times Are Changing, Across the Water, Higher Power and Storms Of Life. The interpretations heard here are a result of a band whose chemistry lets them stretch out and shake up the original compositions.
There’s so much energy and life to Bernard Allison and his crew of A-list musicians on this record, I almost felt as if I was there at the club, perched on the edge of my seat in awe of Allison and his band. “Night Train” kicks off the CD in typical Bernard fashion, killer blues-rock with jazz and funk at its core. Bernard’s virtuoso guitar chops are dynamic and raw with hints of Hendrix and Johnny Winter, with his own unique style at the forefront. His vocals are strong and soulful. You can hear how fully into this live performance he is, fueled by the band, the audience, the energy of the night. Bernard busts out on this album opener and it made me want to see him live even more.
The song’s interlude features a beautiful sax solo by José James, and drummer Mario Dawson locks it down with bassist George Moye and Dylan Salfer on guitar.
What a way to open a CD.
“I actually prefer live performances,” says Bernard, “because you can communicate and interact with the audience. I basically feed off that energy, combined with my group’s talent and personalities.”
Hitting the brakes a bit with a slow blues number by Luther Allison, “You’re Gonna Need Me,” Bernard sings this with such feeling and soul. His sweet guitar riffs are just as soulful and his performance is so front and center, it’s as if he’s playing for you. It wasn’t until Bernard introduced his guitarist Salfer, did I know who was playing a smokin’ guitar solo mid-way through the track. Bernard’s unmistakable guitar work then takes center stage with the sweetest tone, you’d swear B.B King was looking on. Stunning. Bernard makes his guitar sing, makes it talk with staccato picking. You can hear hoots from the audience in praise of his talent.
And this, my friends, is how Songs From The Road goes. Bernard and his band are at their absolute best.
More blues-rock and R&B gems follow where you can hear that Bernard is in his element on stage performing with the band. “Cruisin for a Bluesin,” a funky blues tune with a jazzy flair, horn and guitar fills, just pops with energy and groove. It features another beautiful sax solo by James, and a couple of ripping guitar solos by Bernard. The band is fully in the pocket.
A couple of monster tracks feature Bernard on slide guitar, the last on the record being “Slide Master,” an apt title for this player. He earned his chops and developed his individual sound not only by recording, performing and ultimately leading Luther Allison’s band, but by nurturing from Johnny Winter and Stevie Ray Vaughan, playing lead guitar for Koko Taylor’s Blues Machine for years, and more.
Songs From The Road is fresh and modern with tremendous musicianship by Bernard Allison and the band. It shows exactly why certain performances are meant to be captured live and in the moment.
“Bernard Allison once again brings us the big game...” - Zicazic reviews Bernard Allison’s new album SONGS FROM THE ROAD!
“True communion between Bernard Allison and an audience with which an incredible bond and a very strong exchange were born, ‘Songs From The Road’”
He is the worthy heir of his father and it is a safe bet that Luther Allison would be proud to hear his son on this new live album which takes up the title of one of his own, "Songs From The Road", a recorded effort last fall at the Musiktheater Piano in Dortmund and released in late January on the historic label Ruf Records. With a particularly consistent discography, Bernard Allison once again brings us the big game and will draw not only in his latest opus to date, the excellent "Let It Go", but also in his back catalog with titles like " I Can't Get You Out Of My Head "," Call Me Momma "," Feels Kinda Funny "," Meet Me Half Way "or" Something's Wrong ", and of course in the paternal repertoire with a very inspired version of "Let's Try It Again". Supported by Dylan Salfer on guitar, George Moye on bass, Mario Dawson on drums and José James on sax and percussion, Bernard Allison strives as usual to offer us a funky and groovy blues devil in which he give free rein to his inspiration to draw us from particularly interesting riffs and guitar licks and to feast on his bluesman voice both rough and convincing. It is therefore a blazing blues that the artist delivers to us, a music where we will appreciate the transposition in live of his most recent titles like "Night Train", "Cruisin For A Bluesin", "Same Ole Feeling "Or" Backdoor Man ", but where we will also love the totally unbridled and often unpublished versions of his own classics which evolve every day according to the moment, the spirit of the times and the atmosphere that characterizes it . True communion between Bernard Allison and an audience with which an incredible bond and a very strong exchange were born, "Songs From The Road" is as often a major step in the career of the prodigal son and it is with the greatest pleasure that we will enjoy the audio and video in the living room but also in the dark rooms during a tour that promises to be huge!
Measure your audience
“Slide Master!” - ROOTSVILLE reviews Bernard Allison’s upcoming album (CD/DVD) “SONGS FROM THE ROAD”!
When you are housed at "Ruf Records" this naturally entails obligations. One of them is the release of an obligatory "Songs From The Road" and this is now happening on January 31 for Bernard Allison. "It is no more than normal that Chicago figurehead Luther Allison should still be alive that he would be particularly proud of son Bernard: Because father Luther was on a 'tour' a lot, Bernard was forced to teach himself to play the guitar on the 'Strat' he had received from his father and at the age of 18 Bernard was allowed to take the stage with his father at the 'Chicago Blues Festival' in 1983. Hardly from school it was Koko Taylor who let Bernard Allison play along with names such as Johnny Winter and SRV.
Bernard continued to play with Koko Taylor but also tasted of the success with his own band 'Bernard Allison and Back Talk'. In 1989 he went on a European tour with the help of his father, a consequence of mostly being in Europe. At Ruf he released 'Funkifino' in 1995 and the funk would always be present. In the meantime he released a few albums under the 'Ruf Label' and in 2006 he released 'Live in Europe'. After that he would release four albums for 'Jazz House' with the last one being 'In The Mix' in 2015. He recently returned to the old trusted stable of Thomas Ruf where he released "Let It Go" in 2018.
"Songs From The Road" is of course also available as a DVD with 4 more songs on it. On the CD that you can compare as a "Best Of" there are 15 songs and Bernard opens with a "live" version of the funky "Night Train". The entire album was recorded live at the Musiktheater Piano club in Dortmund in October of last year. even though the songs on this CD have no secrets for the fans, you can still enjoy yourself on some new arrangements. Valve is how could it be otherwise ... Slide Master!
“He swept his audience away with soul-soaked, spirited blues.” - Walter Falk reviews “The Bernard Allison Groups” performance on January 16th at the “Cotton Club” (Kammgarn) in Kaiserslautern, Germany!
“Allison's guitar shone out of the musical witch dance like a shining fanal. When playing the plectrum, like Hendrix, he achieved very different timbres. He also showed the ability to swing or even hold the strings with one hand using bending, sliding or finger vibrato. The audience raged.” -Walter Falk
Review by Walter Falk
(Journalist Die Rheinpfalz newspaper)
On his "Songs from the Road" tour, the American blues guitarist, singer and songwriter Bernard Allison made a guest appearance at the packed Cotton Club on Thursday evening. From 2005 to 2016, Bernard Allison, the youngest of nine children of the blues legend Luther Allison, was in the worsted every January and delighted his fans. But this almost two and a half hour concert (without a break) was his best. Bernard has finally followed in his famous father's footsteps.
Today, 23 years after the death of his father, the great blues star would have been thrilled to hear his son and proud that his extremely talented son followed the same path and swept his audience away with soul-soaked, spirited blues , They were well-known songs - like “Night Train”, “Rocket 88”,
Backdoor man”, You're gonna need me” - but completely reinterpreted: with Bernard Allison as lead guitarist and a live band whose chemistry mixed up these classic songs quite nicely and realigned them wonderfully.
The band started it slowly. The first two titles (“” Stanky issues ”by Bernard himself and“ Night Train ”) were used for warming up. With “Love was meant to be”, however, the band was fully there: driving funk grooves and rocking guitar grips at a high energy level. Bernard Allison skillfully used various, successive techniques. The guitar mimicked his voice. And this had a biting sharpness that dropped every mask and exposed the soul. With an innate sense of nuances, he used the repertoire of his vocal skills. The rough voice slid up effortlessly and struck every note with unwavering accuracy. If he struck the strings and kept taking his left hand off the bridge so that a sequence of open and fretted notes came out, or if he pinched the strings and plucked rapid arpeggios: for him the sound of the guitar was a second voice. Again and again he used his game device for fast or imitative sound patterns and reminded of the way his big daddy played. But he seemed to have another role model: B.B. King. Like “The Guitar King”, Bernard has an excellent feeling for music. Jazz, rock, blues and funk seem to flow effortlessly into one another. What was immediately recognizable as the influence of the blues hero was the long, singing tones that clusters abruptly followed.
In “Rocket 88” the band really went on the gas.
Here Bernard penetrated deep into the African undergrowth and summoned all Voodoo spirits. Cascades of tones that dripped down like drops of water at frantic speed. Powerplay attacks and technical cabinet pieces for the gallery. His six strings whimpered for mercy, sometimes sounded like dry knotty wood, but sometimes pulled themselves back completely and chirped quietly like crickets, driving the excitement to the summit and then roaring like the sound of a twelve-cylinder. Bass player George Moye was completely stoic and told emotional, expressive stories. He combined thumb play and LeFaro agility with an octave technique and added the still dazzling harmonic technique and virtuoso chord play. A hot pot blew Jose James on the saxophone, while Mario Dawson on the drums and rhythm guitarist Dylan Salfer drove the groove crazy.
An absolute highlight was Jimi Hendrix ’“ Voodoo Chile ”(1968). Allison's guitar shone out of the musical witch dance like a shining fanal. When playing the plectrum, like Hendrix, he achieved very different timbres. He also showed the ability to swing or even hold the strings with one hand using bending, sliding or finger vibrato. The audience raged. So the mood increased from title to title. Was there an increase?
He came up with the last song: “Serious”. A tribute to Bernard's father Luther. Here he unleashed all the guitar tricks once again. And with the jul, splinter and superimposed sounds, almost a tear would have come to mind. The concerts of his father Luther Allison in the 1990s were so legendary.
“Breathtaking solos, irresistible moments of transport, a constantly moving repertoire between fast or slow tempo...” - Marc Loison with blues.radio666.com reviews Bernard Allison’s performance this past Friday at the BIG BAND CAFE in Hérouville St. Claire, France!
Bernard Allison, fabulous concert given last night at the BBC at Hérouville St. Claire. Excellent band including a young drummer, Mario Dawson, literally amazing... exit the fireworks and the irritating differences he once knew. For Bernard Allison, at 54, the flame shines in a burning way and he has more than ever his legendary digital speed. In full possession of his means, he puts his outstanding technique at the service of a deep, modern blues, anchored in the authenticity of an electric tradition,-of funk and reminicences... Jimi Hendrix, crossed in a - in tribute to the genius of Seattle -, but also and especially his father Luther, source of enlightenment forever.
Generous, inspired, enthusiastic, highlighting each of his four musicians, he wants to meet us all at the end of these two hours of show, around his latest album to dedicate: "LET IT GO” on CD or vinyl.
Breathtaking solos, irresistible moments of transport, a constantly moving repertoire between fast or slow tempo, some recent tracks or others borrowed from his already long record career started in 1990... before the reminder, he has of a "serious" of anthology, will of the prodigy father to the prodigal son, interpreted with respect and fever, in the love of the Creator-Spawner missing too soon, already 22 years ago.
Thank you Bernard Allison for these fabulous moments! Happy tour to you and your band, it continues tonight in Romania (Brasov) then in Germany, Serbia, Switzerland, United Kingdom... next time, run to see it!
" I love you, Dad! " in French in the text, is the caption of this photo.
“...electric blues as we have not had in a long time.” - Soul Bag Mag
Nashville Blues Society - Don Crow
Bernard Allison review…February 16, 2018…..
Posted February 17, 2018 by dvcrow56
LET IT GO
RUF RECORDS 1252
CRUISIN FOR A BLUESIN–SAME OLE FEELING–BACKDOOR MAN–LET IT GO–NIGHT TRAIN–KIDDIO–LEAVE YOUR EGO–BLUES PARTY–HEY LADY–LOOK OUT MABEL–YOU’RE GONNA NEED ME–CASTLE
Bernard Allison, aside from being the son of blues legend Luther Allison, is a high;y-accomplished and critically-acclaimed bluesman in his own right. Now, he sho’ nuff learned at the feet of his father, recording with him for the first time at the age of thirteen. Over his solo career, which began in 1990, he’s always held true to the traditions of the blues, while putting his own spin on things. You can hear it for yourself on his latest set, “Let It Go,” for Ruf Records.
There are party anthems, funked-up struts, love songs, and a touching tribute to Pops over these twelve cuts. The whole thing was laid down here in western Middle Tennessee, at Bessie Blue Studios in Stantonville, with Jim Gaines producing.
Bernard, along with fellow Ruf artists Vanja Sky and Mike Zito, are bent on bringing great blues to the world as the 2018 Blues Caravan tour kicks off. The set opens with that party groove, with the funky blues of “Crusin For A Bluesin.” Bernard busts out his slide for the dream-sequenced tale of a cheatin’ lover and her “Backdoor Man,” and channels one of his father’s lifelong mantras about performing in general, “Leave Your Ego, play the music, love the people.”
He gets into some fine funk-charged blues with the strut of “Night Train,” and follows that freight train chug on the rollicking, Sun-splashed, “Look Out Mabel.” We had two favorites, too. Bernard pays tribute to his father with a somber acoustic read of Luther’s “Castle,” which closes the set. And, down at Club Heaven, the “Blues Party” never ends, with the slide-heavy boogie that name-checks many of the dearly-departed legends,.
Bernard Allison carries on the family tradition of bringing great blues to fans all over the globe. “Let It Go” reminds us all that he is indeed an unstoppable visionary in the world of contemporary blues! Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.
It is never too late to do well and it will be the case the next day with the concert of Bernard Allison that I had never bothered to go see before. The son of the great Luther will show me that I was wrong. His filiation is omnipresent, he talks about his father, he plays the repertoire, starting his concert with a Rocket 88 cover with a nice guitar solo, to which he gives an organ sound via an effects pedal, then playing Bad love and a slow blues of "Daddy", but he does it with resilience, and lets talk about his personality. It is noteworthy of blue notes and mastery on the guitar, only making the powder speak on the cover of Voodoo chile, and leaving an important place to the saxophone. George Moye on bass and Mario Dawson on drums will be impressive in efficiency, accuracy and swing throughout the evening. “The final title Serious as a heart attack, indeed does not It is never too late to do well and it will be the case the next day with the concert of Bernard Allison that I had never bothered to go see before. The son of the great Luther will show me that I was wrong. His filiation is omnipresent, he talks about his father, he plays the repertoire, starting his concert with a Rocket 88 cover with a nice guitar solo, to which he gives an organ sound via an effects pedal, then playing Bad love and a slow blues of "Daddy", but he does it with resilience, and lets talk about his personality. It is noteworthy of blue notes and mastery on the guitar, only making the powder speak on the cover of Voodoo chile, and leaving an important place to the saxophone. George Moye on bass and Mario Dawson on drums will be impressive in efficiency, accuracy and swing throughout the evening. “The final title Serious as a heart attack, indeed does not joke but superbly closes an evening of electric blues as we have not had in a long time.” - Soul Bag Mag
Bernard Allison Lets It Go
BY GRANT BRITT , STAFF REVIEWER
FEBRUARY 6, 2018
Bernard Allison is as bad as his daddy. Luther laid it down hot and nasty with his Les Pauls and Strats, using his teeth as much as his hands to get his message across. Like his dad, Bernard is an Freddie King disciple. King's fiery licks flicker throughout Allison's riff catalog, scuttling along the fretboard as he reaches flameout territory.
His latest release takes him back to Ruf records, the label that helped revitalize daddy Luther's US career in the '90s after he had been living in Paris for nearly a decade. Luther Allison's American comeback was released in Germany on Ruf as 1994's Bad Love and in the US on Alligator as Soul Fixin' Man.
But Bernard needs no comeback. He's been coming on harder and stronger since his formative years right out of high school, playing with Koko Taylor then touring and recording with his dad before going out on his own.
He wrote most of the material on Let It Go. “Night Train” is not the sweaty James Brown chitlin circuit whistle stop shout-out, but a funky strut that slinks along at a pace slow enough to swing up and ride along with 'til Allison puts a torch to the wheels, Freddie King sparks flying as he blows by, leaving you bruised and bleeding beside the tracks.
“Kiddio” is a jazzy change of pace, the Brook Benton/Clyde Otis composition gliding along with a mellow big band vibe, Allison's guitar solo feeling more like George Benson than anyone in the Allison family.
Allison name- and guitar-checks just about anyone who is anybody in blues on “Blues Party,” channeling snatches of Albert Collins and Elmore James while giving honorable mention to Robert Johnson, Robert Jr. Lockwood, John Lee Hooker, Albert King, Stevie Ray, and of course daddy Luther along with Johnny Clyde Copeland and Gatemouth Brown, finishing with a blistering tribute to B. B. King's wiggly string-bending prowess that has some Johnny Winter snuck in there as well to grease things up a touch.
“Hey Lady” commingles Curtis Mayfield and Jimi Hendrix for a wah-wah punctuated smoothie.
Allison finishes up with a couple of daddy's, mellowing out Luther's B.B. King-inspired vocal roar and knocking some of the sharper edges off dad's original solos on “You Gonna Need Me.”
For “Castle,” Allison rearranges Luther's Ry Cooder-ish bluesy version to folky country, adopting an unlikely vocal blend of Jim Croce and Darius Rucker.
It's good, solid work passed on from father to son, honored and honed to a brilliant shine.
February 7th, 2018
Bernard Allison: Let It Go Review
Bernard Allison is the son of the legendary bluesman, Luther Allison. I want to get that fact out of the way early, because lineage is always a factor when an artist has a famous parent. But Bernard Allison isn’t just some kind of novelty act cashing in on a famous name, as evidenced both by his long career, but also by Let It Go, his new, and brilliant, album.
The challenge of the blues, for all artists, is connecting to its rich history while also sounding contemporary. Allison navigates that challenge perfectly, creating an album that is timeless. “Cruisin for a Bluesin,” the album’s lead-off track, sounds like a lost Stax cut, with its walking bass line, Allison’s laid-back vocals, and his bold, wild soloing throughout the song. “Backdoor Man” is just as funky, but also somehow like Bob Dylan’s “Foot of Pride” reborn in the Missippi delta. A few songs later, on “Hey Lady,” Allison plays over a slinky rhythm-and-blues groove that resolves into a chorus not unlike Eric Clapton’s “Bad Love.” In every case, Allison is bringing blues touchstones into a modern setting.
It’s not just the quality of the songs that makes this album such a great listen, but the song variety. Allison subtly moves between styles without the album ever sounding random. Everything fits together perfectly. He even concludes with two of his father’s songs, which is interesting since Allison doesn’t sound especially like Luther; he actually has more of a Muddy Waters sound. But the two songs fit perfectly into the rest of the album.
Let It Go shows Allison’s mastery of the blues. Not only does he know the licks and the structures but he also knows how to assemble them together. He’s created an album that manages to sound both modern and old; an album that sounds bluesy but not derivative. It’s a beautiful work of art.
The Review: 9.5/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Backdoor Man
– Hey Lady
– Cruisin for a Bluesin
– Blues Party
The Big Hit
– Blues Party
Review by Steven Ovadia
By Martine Ehrenclou
Let It Go, the new album by guitar slinger and blues funk master, Bernard Allison, released February 2nd, cracks the start of 2018 with a blues-bang.
The incredibly talented guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, Bernard Allison (son of the late, blues heavyweight, Luther Allison) put together a funky blues album that rocks. There’s something for everyone on Let It Go, including jazz and rock tunes. Produced by the legendary Jim Gaines, Let It Go is Allison’s return to Ruf Records.
Allison is the king of groove and smokin’ guitar chops, and Let It Go showcases plenty of soul-satisfying guitar work. It’s an upbeat, and even uplifting record with genre bending tunes that Allison largely wrote himself, with the exception of two covers and two by his father.
The 12-track album kicks off with, “Cruisin’ for a Bluesin,” a rhythmic groove with a foot-stompin’ beat. The perfect album-opener with a mighty fine guitar solo and smooth, soulful vocals by Allison. This tune must be experienced at high volumes to capture the excellent musicianship by Bernard Allison (vocals, lead guitar, slide, B3,) John T. McGhee (rhythm guitar) George Moye (bass) and Mario Dawson (drums.)
Next up, “Same Ole Feeling” offers a sweet R&B groove with tasteful guitar work, courtesy of the versatile Allison. Talk about making a guitar sing. He makes his guitar whine, croon and belt. Something about his guitar solo reminded me of George Benson, but with a tone and style all his own. Just listen to it and you’ll see what I mean.
“Back Door Man” opens with talk box, adding interesting texture to the intro. Allison takes a spin on slide guitar, making this track a standout on the album. This is funky fun.
“Let It Go” introduces a different feel. It’s more of a rock song about love gone wrong. Again, Allison kills it on guitar and vocals. The guitar solo, in a word, is beautiful. The rhythm section is tight, perfectly in sync.
“Night Train,” another standout, is a rockin’ funky blues tune with some interesting jazz flavors and once again features outstanding musicianship from Allison and the band. “Night Train” is also about good storytelling. What better than a tale about going to a club, a hole in the wall, and playing music until dawn. The band is so tight-knit you can hear their connection. Allison’s stunning guitar riffs ride the bass line and he plays another ripping solo. It’s funky but has a whole lot more going on.
Versatility is the name of the game for this record, which isn’t surprising given Allison’s breadth of skills to draw from. He began playing professionally at the age of 13 on his father’s records, and went directly from high school into Koko Taylor’s Blues Machine. This began several decades of a prolific solo career, 19 albums, and performing and recording with many blues greats.
“Kiddio,” a Brook Benton jazz number, features a beautiful sax solo played by Jose Ned James. It’s a laid back tune, but don’t let that fool you—it’s expertly played with plenty of soul and groove.
WORLD PREMIERE “Let It Go” by Bernard Allison
'Let It Go' is out on Ruf Records on February 2nd in the US and UK.
Photo by Lisa Gray
At just 13 years old, it became apparent that Bernard Allison was going to be a force to be reckoned with when his father, Luther Allison, heard him play with his own “Love Me Mama” note-for-note. Impressed, the elder Allison told him, “Tonight you’re gonna record with me.”
On the road with his father, he’d met Muddy Waters, Hound Dog Taylor and Albert King, and many more of his heroes. Just a week out of high school he joined Koko Taylor’s touring band.
As his career and ability progressed Allison collaborated with his father and also learned from other greats including Johnny Winter and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Allison’s latest album, Let It Go, is out on Ruf Records January 26th in Germany and in US and UK on February 2nd. Allison notes that “We made the decision to not flood the CD with keyboards or horns, to go back to the true basic rhythm section sound – and to show more mature songwriting.”
Indeed. Let It Go is filled with one tasty sonic nugget after another. Premiering here, the title track has a beat that draws listeners in immediately, and a groove that doesn’t quit. And while everyone knows that Allison can burn up a fretboard with the best artists out there, here he invites us to savor every note.
Allison says, “Let’s talk about the future and learn from the past!! Let It Go because dwelling on the past makes no sense anymore!”
By Phillip Smith; Jan 6, 2018
I have nothing but the highest of praise for Bernard Allison’slatest album Let it Go. It’s a delightful blend of blues, funk and soul. With this release, Bernard returns to Ruf Records, the label Thomas Ruf created for his father, the late great bluesmanLuther Allison in 1994. Bernard’s band is wonderfully tight and consists of rhythm guitarist John T. McGhee, bassist George Moye, and drummer Mario Dawson. Recorded by the legendary music producer, Jim Gaines, the album was recorded at Bessie Blue Studio in Stantonville, Tennessee.
From the beginning, I’m hooked by the spirited rhythm and bouncy groove on “Cruisin for a Bluesin”. It wonderfully ignites into a smoking guitar performance. His soulful vocals on title track “Let it Go” are suave and soulful. This is such a terrific song. There’s a definitely a bit of the P-Funk influence on the front end of “Night Train”. I love the bassline Moye throws down as Bernard takes this fresh, funky track to the next level with his guitar mastery. Covered and topped with Dawson’s dynamic drumming, this is one phenomenal listen.
Bernard charmingly takes on Brook Benton’s 1960 hit single “Kiddio”, enlisting the magnificent Jose Ned James on sax. For a fabulous finale, the listener is treated to two wonderful covers originally recorded by his father, Luther. First served is the delicious slow-cooked blues of “You’re Gonna Need Me”, from the 1982 album South Side Safari. Then for a captivating closer,Bernard beautifully performs “Castle”, from Luther’s 1994 album Hand Me Down My Moonshine.
Over the years, Bernard Allison has continued to push the envelope in his songwriting and artistry, and that certainly shows in Let it Go.
Take a listen to the album on Apple Music, and if you decide to purchase it, use my special link. This helps keep thePhillyCheeze site going.
BERNARD ALLISON RETURNS HOME TO RUF RECORDS
BERNARD ALLISON – LET IT GO
Release Dates – Germany/Europe Jan 26, USA and UK Feb 2, 2018
Bernard Allison is unstoppable. He’s the face on the magazines and the voice on the radio. He’s the showman roaming the open road on the 2018 Blues Caravan tour, bringing it to the people each night with compadrés Mike Zito and Vanja Sky. He’s the visionary songwriter whose latest studio release – Let It Go – is already tipped as an album of 2018. It’s a work ethic that would leave most musicians gasping, but for this creative dynamo – now entering his fifth decade at the head of the blues pack – it’s all in a day’s work.
Starting the blues calendar with a bang in January 2018, Let It Go feels like a homecoming. After all, this latest studio album sees Bernard return to Ruf Records: the iconic German label that was created in 1994 to serve as a home for his father, the much-missed Chicago heavyweight, Luther Allison. Just as significant, Let It Go also found Bernard recording in the birthplace of the blues – Tennessee – and returns his sound to its raw fundamentals, on 12 songs that hold up without embellishment.
“Let It Go was recorded at Bessie Blue Studio, Stantonville, Tennessee, with legendary music producer Jim Gaines,” recalls Bernard. “We made the decision to not flood the CD with keyboards or horns, to go back to the true basic rhythm section sound – and to show more mature songwriting.”
Since he opened his solo account in 1990 with The Next Generation, Bernard’s songwriting has been on a steep upward trajectory, and Let It Go represents a new peak. On a twelve-song tracklisting, Cruisin For A Bruisin opens proceedings in style, with a clipped funk-blues lick and a lyric that sums up Bernard’s existence since he first guested with his father in the late-’70s (“Gonna groove on down this highway, got my guitar in my hand”).
Same Ole Feeling pines for an absent lover over glassy wah chords, while the upbeat Backdoor Man finds Bernard with a .44 in his hand, investigating a disturbance and fretting that his girl is cheating. The powerful title track calls time on a worn-out relationship (“Our tears are falling, and our river’s run dry”), while Night Train tells of earning a crust in the blues joints of Chicago, set off by a snakey, soulful guitar solo. As for Leave Your Ego, this rough-edged Hendrix-worthy blues tips a hat to Allison Snr. “It’s all about my dad’s saying: ‘Leave your ego, play the music, love the people’. We honour that quote everyday…”
As a questing artist who once noted that “blues is about experimenting”, Bernard isn’t afraid to twist the blueprint on Let It Go, evidenced by moments like the jazzy scuttle of Kiddio, or the closing acoustic lament of his father’s Castle. Yet the bandleader still wears his love for the genre proudly, most notably on Blues Party, where he imagines a celestial jam session with a house band including fallen titans from John Lee Hooker to Robert Johnson (“They’ll be hangin’ out in heaven/A blues party that never ends”).
No doubt, Luther is also looking down – and he’d surely be proud of his youngest son’s achievements to date. Born in Chicago on November 26th, 1965, Bernard spent his formative years absorbing the blues greats – from T-Bone Walker to B.B. King – through his absent father’s vinyl collection. His own talent was announced at the age of 13, when he surprised Allison Snr by playing along with his first record, Love Me Mama, note-for-note. “He freaked out and said, ‘Tonight you’re gonna record with me’. That was my first recording. I played You Don’t Love Me No More and Sweet Home Chicago.”
Following that first live appearance in Peoria, Illinois, Bernard juggled his education with regular sets on the Allison stage, and his reputation was soon so established that he went direct from high school into the great Koko Taylor’s Blues Machine. As he once recalled: “Koko and Pops Taylor taught me the dos and don’ts of the road.”
By the ’80s, Bernard was moving in the orbit of fellow gunslingers like Stevie Ray Vaughan – a friendship that brought further colours to his dazzling guitar palette – and in 1989, he echoed his father’s decision to embrace Europe, taking up residence in Paris. The release of The Next Generation in 1990 proved the starting pistol for an astonishingly prolific solo career, and in 2018, Bernard can look back on an acclaimed early catalogue that takes in Hang On, Funkifino, No Mercy, Born With The Blues, Keepin’ The Blues Alive and Times Are Changing. Since the millennium, releases have included Across The Water, Storms Of Life, Kentucky Fried Blues and Higher Power, while in recent times, there’s been the Energized live release, the collaborative Allison Burnside Express alongside Cedric Burnside and 2015’s In The Mix. Like we say: he’s unstoppable.
It’s an auspicious catalogue by an acclaimed genre heavyweight – but Let It Go is a potent reminder that for Bernard Allison, there’s always another gear. “We all just came together as a group to create this album,” he considers, “to show our chemistry as friends and bandmates. My favourite memory was watching the faces of everyone involved in the session. Everyone came to lay it on down and gave 110%…”
Bernard Allison – Let It Go
Label: Ruf Records
Release date: 26 January 2018
01 Crusin for a Bluesin
02 Same Ole Feeling
03 Backdoor Man
04 Let It Go
05 Night Train
07 Leave Your Ego
08 Blues Party
09 Hey Lady
10 Look out Mabel
11 You’re Gonna Need Me
Photo: Lisa Gray
By Dave Resto
Bill Nutt, Correspondent
Tradition is important to the blues, according to Bernard Allison, who traced his appreciation for the music to his father. Before his death in 1997, Luther Allison played with a who’s who of bluesmen, including Howlin’ Wolf and James Cotton.
“I grew up with all that music, being the baby of the family,” said Bernard Allison. “I carry that with me, with some gospel, some funk, some R&B. But I pretty much always knew I’d play the blues. I wanted to do what my dad did.”
Photo: Lisa Gray
Photos: Christophe Rascle