CD: 12 Songs, 49:58 Minutes
Styles: Contemporary and Traditional Electric Blues and Blues Rock
Painful admission: When this reviewer saw the title of the aforementioned CD, she popped it into her stereo and fast-forwarded to that track, hoping and praying it wasn’t a cover of the pop hit from Disney’s Frozen. Then she thought, “Bernard Allison would never do that. He’s a legend!” His Let It Go is an original tune and an entire album besides. When blues runs in the blood as thickly and purely as it does between a father and his youngest son, nary a sour note is played. Bernard’s groove persists and embellishes itself throughout twelve tracks: eight of his own, two of Luther’s (“You’re Gonna Need Me” and “Castle,”) and two other covers (“Kiddio” by Brook Benton and Clyde Otis, and “Look Out Mabel” by Melvin London and G.L. Crockett). Perhaps the best part of Bernard’s blues is his vocals, savory as barbecue ribs: hot and tangy, just the thing to warm one’s ears like a full rack of “baby back” warms the stomach. Of course, his guitar is iconic, and it makes a bold appearance in electric, slide, and acoustic varieties. Ruf Records has done it again, providing pristine-quality music from a pristine-quality, traditional blues artist.
“Let It Go was recorded at Bessie Blue Studio in Stantonville, Tennessee, with legendary music producer Jim Gaines,” recalls Allison. “We made the decision to not flood the CD with keyboards or horns, to go back to the true basic rhythm section sound – and to show more mature songwriting.” He adds, “We all just came together as a group to create this album, to show our chemistry as friends and bandmates. My favorite memory was watching the faces of everyone involved in the session. Everyone came to lay it down and gave 110%.”
Along with Bernard on lead vocals, slide guitar, lead guitar, talk, B3 and acoustic guitars are John T. McGhee on rhythm guitar, Jose Ned James on sax for “Kiddio,” George Moye on bass guitar, and Mario Dawson on drums, finger snaps, tambourine, and background vocals for “Leave Your Ego.”
The following three songs are diamonds in the midst of a twelve-gem tennis bracelet.
Track 01: “Cruisin’ for a Bluesin’” – Periodically, touring artists wax poetic about life on the road – the routine, the ins and outs of performing, and in the end, the perennial payoff. “Well, I wake up every morning, just about the break of day. One more cup of coffee, and then I get on my way…We’re cruisin’ for a bluesin’. We don’t know any other way.” Would that we all could be so lucky! Laid-back and good-humored, this opener should find its way onto Sirius XM’s playlists, if it hasn’t already.
Track 06: “Kiddio” – Winning my Best Instrumentation award is “Kiddio,” an endearingly sexy cover featuring sultry sax and lyrics that’ll melt a glacier. Also top-notch is George Moye’s bassline. Tap your toes and snap your fingers along with Mario Dawson, and croon along with Bernard as he sings, “I want you, baby. Don’t you say no. Make me feel good, kiddio.” Reminiscent of Steve Miller and Marvin Gaye, it’s a touch of jazz amid the blues.
Track 12: “Castle” – A gorgeous tribute to Allison’s late father, Luther, “Castle” will tug at one’s heartstrings and make one play along on acoustic guitar strings. It’s a melancholy ballad that fits perfectly as a closer, midway between blues and straight romantic serenade.
Are late-winter doldrums getting you down? Let It Go with the magnificent Bernard Allison!