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The key track of the album says it: "Chills & Thrills" has been written, recorded and produced seriously. Trouble with women and other states of yearning often dominate the lyrics. There is no use guessing the reasons for parting with Ruf Records; on the other hand, a more sensible way is to think about the future with a new record company. We have a fresh start here. Bernard Allison, 42, still has a thing or two to say.


Bernard Allison: Chills & Thrills. Jazzhaus Records, 2007

Allison (guitar, vocals), Jassen Wilber (bass), Rusty Hall (keyboards), Mario Dawson (drums), Eric Gales (guitar, vocals)

Guests: Bruce McCabe (piano, clavinet), Kathleen Johnson (background vocals), Jose James (sax)

Producer: Bernard Allison

Links: Bernard Allison
homepage and MySpace, Jazzhaus Records
Allison in Vaasa 2006 Kake Kiirikki
Bernard Allison Takes It Seriously

23 January 2008

The Chicago guitarist-singer in known for his sympathy for rock, but new album "Chills & Thrills" also includes some intensive, slow stuff. Luther Allison's son proves to be an artist in his own right.

"Chills & Thrills" is the first studio album by
Bernard Allison since his 2004 cd "Higher Power". He has moved to the German Jazzhaus Records, leaving Ruf Records behind; Ruf, in turn, was originally established to serve his father Luther's career. Jazzhaus career seems to make a promising start.
As Allison jr played the Halloween Blues Festival in Finland's midwestern city of Vaasa in 2006, bassist Jassen Wilber and keyboardist Rusty Hall had just joined his band. The twosome play on the new record, too. Their interplay was a bit shaky in Vaasa, but all that is gone now. The band plays in style; a fact underlined by the trustworthy Mario Dawson (drums) and Eric Gales (guitar).

Bernard Allison keeps the family flag high by doing three of his father's songs. Recorded in New Hope, Minnesota, the album includes six songs of Bernard's self-penned material.

BA is known for his inclination towards rock music, but the strengths of "Chills & Thrills" are not necessarily in that neighbourhood. Conversely, he shows his skills as a balladeer here. "Serious" by Luther Allison is the strongest on the cd; a version that is quite obviously cut in a highly determined mood. His vocals are strong, supported by some inspired guitar work.
Kathleen Johnson's background vocals add a warm finishing touch. There is also an "After Hours" reprise version of the song in the end of the cd. The decision is slightly awkward, but "Serious" is the most effective blues ballad heard in a while.
Additionally, Magic Sam cover "That's Why I'm Cryin'" turns out fine. The 'hero' of the story walks the streets at night crying. The emotional burden can indeed be heard in the beefy sound of the cut. Allison displays his ability to mix delta style guitar with electric rock; this is evident on "Black & White", his own song, as well as on "Just My Guitar and Me", another Luther cover.

The 'statutory' rock songs are there of course. The album's title song builds itself around a cheeky riff; "When I'm Gone" is fun, too: Eric Gales's vocals bring in some all-important variety although his voice might not be the strongest one you have ever heard. "So Divine" is given some jazz/soul flavour by
Jose James's sax. The title of Bernard's own "Groove with Me" alone tells what the song is all about.

Bernard Allison is a fine guitarist and his singing voice is quite unique. He is ok as a song-writer, too. The best rock tracks of the new album hardly match his best recordings (Time Flies By, A Woman Named Trouble), but they surely keep you away from boredom.