Blues Bytes


February 2024

Bernard Allison
Luther's Blues
Ruf Records

Bernard Allison

I had been listening to the blues for about a decade when Luther Allison suddenly passed away. His death was quite a jolt to blues fans because he was one of my first personal favorites and he had recently enjoyed a resurgence in the U.S. with his recordings for Alligator Records. A few months after his passing, I stumbled across a recording by Bernard Allison, who I discovered was Luther’s youngest son.

That recording (1997’s Keepin’ The Blues Alive on Cannonball Records) blew me away because the younger Allison was a powerhouse guitarist and vocalist like his dad, but he also incorporated elements of music that he (and I) had listened to as a youngster. Heavy doses of funk and R&B, which his dad did as well, but with a more modern twist that really appealed to me.

As I listened to his earlier and later recordings, I never really thought of him as “Luther’s son.” To me, he was always very much his own man as an artist. When I interviewed him for my blog back in 2015, he told me the best piece of advice he received when starting out was to “(l)isten to all styles of music and try to find yourself within and play what your heart feels, as opposed to copying someone else’s feel.”

Over his career, the younger Allison has always included a song or two from his father’s catalog on his numerous albums, mostly for Ruf Records, the German label that has served both Allisons well over the years. Ruf recently issued a compilation of those tracks, coinciding with their 30th anniversary. Luther’s Blues collects 20 of Bernard Allison’s versions of Luther Allison’s tunes in an outstanding two-CD set.

The electrifying “Hang On,” from Bernard’s 1992 album of the same title, is an appropriate choice to lead things off, but other tracks, like the soulful “Reaching Out” and the funky blues “Too Many Women,” show the musical versatility of both Allisons.

While there are songs that will be familiar to Luther Allison fans, such as “Serious,” “Life Is A Bitch,” “Move From The Hood,” and “Bad Love,” one of the cool things about Bernard’s song selection is that he often opts for lesser-known, but no less powerful songs that might have slipped through the cracks otherwise. “Into My Life,” “Help,” “Now You Got It,” “Change Your Way Of Living,” “You’re Gonna Need Me,” and “A Change Must Come” may not be as familiar, but they show what a great songwriter the elder Allison was.

Another thing about Bernard’s approach is that while he’s playing his father’s music, he doesn’t just offer the basic, routine covers. He finds something of himself in each of these songs and plays what’s in his heart, just like his father encouraged him to do. Longtime Luther Allison fans will enjoy these songs, but they will also dig the additional twists and turns that his son gives each of these songs.

Bernard Allison made a promise to his mother, Fannie Mae Allison, at the beginning of his career that he would always include one or two of his father’s songs on every album he recorded. He’s held to that promise throughout his career, and thanks to that promise, blues fans now have this awesome collection of the father’s songs performed by the son.

Blues fans are encouraged to take in Luther’s Blues as soon as they can. It will be one of the wisest purchases you make as a blues fan.

--- Graham Clarke



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