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May 1997

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Luther Allison
Alligator Records

Reckless album coverLuther Allison has had the "Midas touch" since ending his self-imposed European exile a few years back. He's appeared on most major festivals, won more than a few Handy awards, and garnered considerable acclaim for his first two Alligator albums. Blues is a music of emotional intensity, and no one in the last 25 years has approached Allison's onstage fervor.

Luther AllisonReckless just might be Allison's best CD to date. He's at his strongest on slow, intense blues numbers, and this disk has several killers. When I reviewed Allison's previous album, Blue Streak, I proclaimed that "Cherry Red Wine" would be in contention for the best blues song of the '90s. Now you can add "Drowning At The Bottom" to that same list. As with "Cherry Red Wine," this song deals with the despair bought on by the evils of alcohol. "....You've got the nerve to ask the children to pour you another drink...." and the ending refrain "....When it's all said and done, you're going to keep on drinking, the children will only remember by the hole they dug in the ground...." are extremely effective lines.

"Living In The House Of The Blues" and "Will It Ever Change?" are other slow, intense numbers. And if you start to think of Allison as a one-dimensional artist, then he'll speed up the tempo for you on the more cheerful "You Can, You Can."

Another of this artist's strengths is his ability to take a cover tune, and reshape it to his own style. On Reckless Allison takes O.V. Wright's soul weeper "You're Gonna Make Me Cry," leads in with a churchy organ intro, then hits the listener with incredible impassioned, pleading vocals.

Luther Allison is arguably the finest contemporary blues performer. Reckless further cements that reputation.

- Bill Mitchell

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