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.