Songs From The Road
Bernard Allison was born in Chicago in 1965 and raised in the blues by his father the late Luther Allison. The elder Allison, who passed in 1997, was an 18 times Blues Music Award winner and a 1998 inductee into the Blues Hall of Fame. The younger Allison started playing guitar when he was ten and recorded with his father when he was thirteen. After graduating high school Allison played in both Koko Taylor’s Blues Machine and Willie Dixon’s Blues All-Stars.
Between 1997 and 2006 Allison released seven albums on the Ruf Records imprint. He left Ruf and recorded for Tone-Cool and the Jazzhaus Record labels. The Bernard Allison Group’s last recording for Jazzhaus was 2015’s “In The Mix”. When I reviewed that album I noticed that Allison’s guitar was further back in the mix and that his soulful vocals were among the best of his career. He had grown so much as an artist.
Allison returned to Ruf Records and in 2018 released “Let It Go”. The album was a homecoming and it included new originals, many of them jazzier than previously, while still covering some of his father songs. Allison again proved himself a unique artist.
This newest release is a live CD/DVD recorded at the Musiktheater Piano in Dortmund, Germany on October 23rd, 2019. The CD was produced by Jim Gaines while the DVD is produced by Thomas Ruf. This raw live set captures the virtuosity of today’s dynamic Allison. While the DVD lets the viewer witness each bead of sweat from this master. Allison states “I actually prefer live performances because you can communicate and interact with the audience. I basically feed off of that energy, combined with my group’s talent and personalities.”
The band features Allison, guitar and vocals; Dylan Salfer, guitar; Jose Ned James, sax and percussion; and the rhythm section of George Moye, bass; and Mario Dawson, drums. Allison has improved as a songwriter and five songs are reprised from his last album. Included are “Night Train”; “Cruisin For A Bluesin”; “Same Ole Feeling”, “Backdoor Man” and the slow blues “You’re Gonna Need Me”. The soul dripping “Call Me Momma” first appeared on that last Jazzhaus recording. Allison always includes some of his father Luther’s songs and this time it’s “You’re Gonna Need Me” from 1979; and “Let’s Try It Again” from 1989.
This absolutely essential recording is so good that it should be required listening for all Bernard Allison fans. In fact, my copy will sit in my collection next to Luther Allison’s “Songs From The Road”, recorded on July 4th, 1997 and released in 2009, also on Ruf Records. It just doesn’t get better than these two companions.