Album review: Bernard Allison, ‘In The Mix’ stirs up styles

Bernard_Allison“In The Mix,” guitarist Bernard Allison’s first studio album in six years, is a polished mix of blues and soul that sees Allison showing he is more than just a bluesman. Bernard Allison is the son of legendary Chicago blues artist Luther Allison and has been playing the guitar since he was 10 years old. He was recruited to play in Koko Taylor’s touring band right out of high school and cut his teeth being a touring musician with “the Queen of the Blues” and the great Willie Dixon. He released his first solo album,“The Next Generation,” in 1990 and has been relentlessly touring and releasing his own music ever since. Though Allison began his career as a blues guitarist, “In The Mix” shows he has matured into a musician who can write songs that incorporate multiple musical styles outside of the blues. The album begins with a cover of Colin James’ “Five Long Years” that sounds like a Bruce Springsteen B-side. Jose Ned James, who contributes on four of the album’s 10 tracks, delivers a heated saxophone solo and provides the song’s catchy hook. The song drives along steadily and Allison’s delivers a scorching guitar solo to close it out. In the Mix cover“Call Me Momma,” an Allison original, is a cute soul-pop track that flourishes on the interplay between James’ saxophone and Allison’s guitar. They each lay down sugary licks throughout the song and keep the song light and romantic. Allison’s warm vocals provide a nice cherry on top. “Lust For You” is another song that is built around Allison playing in tandem with another member of his band, this time with Mark Leach on B-3 organ. The two musicians swirl together and let each other take turns leading the song. Refreshingly, the album is not driven by Allison screeching on guitar, but rather the band working collaboratively. But Allison can still screech the guitar when the song calls for it, and provides a ripping solo on “Something’s Wrong With You” and weaves his way through Freddie King’s “I’d Rather Be Blind.” He is a capable guitarist and his years of touring have certainly taught him to make his time in the spotlight count. Allison was brought up in the grit of the blues, but “In The Mix” doesn’t really have an edge to cut with. The songs are all very polished and can sometimes be too slick for their own good. “Move From The Hood” is a cover of Allison’s father, yet the song makes the blues sound cheery, which they certainly are not. The album also can feel redundant, as the songs don’t really have significantly different arrangements or tempos. Allison proves with this release that he is more than just a cut copy of his father and that is a good thing. Tthe world is always better with a little variety.
  • Bernard Allison ‘In The Mix’ Jazzhaus Records Release: March 17, 2015 Notable Tracks: “Five Long Years,” “Call Me Momma” Purchase: LINK

ABOUT Garrett Bethmann

Garrett Bethmann
Garrett Bethmann is a graduate of University of Mary Washington with a degree in English. An eight-year resident of Lake Tahoe, he now lives in Denver, Colorado.

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