Writing songs about redemption, from personal experience, can be tricky. But in much the same way that Stevie Ray Vaughan exorcised his demons on In Step – in songs like “Wall Of Denial” and “Tightrope” – here Bernard Allison addresses his own struggles without coming off as preachy. From the first cut, “I’ve Learned My Lesson,” this ambitious, self-produced effort indicates that the singer/guitarist is back on track and better than ever.
Allison has had to deal with the early death of his father, blues great Luther Allison, and the depression and substance abuse that followed. Two of Luther’s songs, “Raggedy And Dirty” and “Into My Life,” are included in the set, and Bernard does his dad proud. At times, his singing is very reminiscent of the elder Allison, but it’s obviously more genetic than imitative.
His “New Life I’m In,” revealing Albert King’s influence, is about making amends. But, again like In Step , Allison shows that there’s still a place for good, old-fashioned, carnal blues, like the romping shuffle “It’s A Man Down There” and “Stay With Me,” featuring a blistering wah-wah solo.
Paul Diethelm guests on lead guitar on “Stakes Have Gone Up,” and Morris Day & The Time guitarist Jellybean Johnson is featured on “Next 2 U.” With Diethelm on Dobro, Allison closes with the sensitive, acoustic “Ami” – French for “Friend.” Like the rest of the album, it shows he’s not afraid to go outside the 12-bar restrictions, and when he stays within the form he brings his own original voice to the blues.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s July ’05 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.