Bernard Allison totes the same smokin’ six string shooter that his late father Luther Allison assaulted the blues with. And he is blessed with his father’s soulful voice, spiritual devotion, and a musical freedom which experiments with the blues. Born in Chicago on November 26th, 1965, the youngest of nine children Bernard was first introduced to the roots of black music and the art of the electric guitar by his father, the late great Luther Allison. Like Ken Griffey Jr. hanging out in baseball locker rooms as a youth, Luther’s son was the kid running on-stage throughout the band’s set. Experiences like that profoundly effect one’s aspirations. “That’s when I decided I wanted to be up there like him. I think I was seven.
Bernard made his first appearance on record at age 13, when he played on a live LP his father recorded in Peoria, IL. “When we moved to Peoria, Dad came home preparing to do his live album in Peoria, I hooked up the amplifier and guitar in the basement and started playing his first record, Love Me Mama, note for note. He freaked out and said tonight you’re gonna record with me. That was my first recording. I played “You Don’t Love Me Know More” and “Sweet Home Chicago.”
One year later, Bernard released his first solo album in 1990 with the significant title The Next Generation. Allison followed that in 1993 with Hang On, then Funkifino, No Mercy. Bernard’s other titles during the 1990’s included Born with the Blues, Keepin’ the Blues Alive, and Times Are Changing. In the new millennium, Bernard’s recordings include Across the Water, Storms of Life, Kentucky Fried Blues, the highly personal Higher Power, and Energized, a live recording and DVD from a 2005 show.
“I’m gonna try my best to pick up where he left off, but I can’t be Luther Allison, I can only be myself. In the beginning everyone expects me to be exactly like him, but we are two different musicians.”
As a true “son of the blues,” Bernard possesses the requisite guitar feel and vocal intonations necessary to push his blues into the next century. He knows the energy level necessary to hold audiences and combines a enough showmanship and spontaneity to push the performance in fresh, innovative directions each night.
“In order for anything to expand, you have to take a risk,” says Bernard. “Blues is about experimenting and getting your feelings across to someone else. And if you want to keep it going, people are going to have to give it all a chance because we’re losing all our creators. Because I’ve been taking risks on every album I’ve recorded, this record is just a logical progression from everything else I’ve done. Instead of playing rippin’ 12 bar blues guitar over and over, there are bluesy songs, soul, funk, R&B songs and a couple of rock things which shows the overall musicianship of Bernard Allison.”
That musicianship is no clearer than on his current record, Chills and Thrills. After 17 years of recording experience, Bernard has perfected his sound. Instead of just using his guitar, Bernard has become mature the artist who uses the full palate of musical colors in his band to paint his stories.
If there ever was a CD for all occasions, this is it. It’s got the chill songs to curl up with on a rainy day, or the thrill music you’ll blast when you’re driving late at night. By adding the rhythm guitar of Bernard’s guitar soul mate Eric Gales, every song explodes into a guitar player’s head trip. The title cut opens the record with Bernard’s trademark funk meets blues sound. That signature sound permeates other tunes like “Compromising for Your Need,” “Heart of St. Paul,” and “Groove with Me,” Bernard’s treatise on the modernesque blues he’ll continue to play around the world. But Bernard’s got so much more. On “So Devine” Bruce McCabe’s piano and Jose James’ alto sax steals the show. On “Just Me and My Guitar,” Bernard shows off the frantic slide techniques he learned in the 1980’s from Johnny Winter. For slow blues, Bernard and pianist Rusty Hall turn in a first rate guitar and piano performance on “That’s Why I’m Crying.” But any fan of Bernard Allison knows that every show or record comes with one of his father’s songs. Here, Bernard reprises Luther’s 1980’s tune “Serious,” played with Bernard’s eerie, Luther-like vocal attack. In addition, Bernard strips “Serious” down to just piano and guitar in his after hours styled closer.
Amid all the daily pop culture pressures to be the next American Idol why does Bernard stay rooted in the blues? “The blues is my roots. Regardless of how far outside of the blues I reach for tones, I can’t ever leave the blues. Whenever I play, all those guitar parts are Luther Allison coming through me. My dad was the same way, he wasn’t all blues. He loved Otis Redding or Chuck Berry. I’m just showing where my influences come from. And respecting the people who got me to this point.”
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