also available on DVD (RUF 3002)
Since returning to the United States from Europe in the late 1990s, Bernard Allison has been touring almost non-stop. The aim: to build a following as big as the one he has overseas. "I knew it would take time," he said recently. "You gotta work for it." To that end, he's been taking his high-energy road show to small clubs and large festivals and even opening for high-profile acts such as George Thorogood and Jonny Lang. But whether it's a 45-minute support slot or a full-blown Bernard Allison concert (these routinely last two-and-a-half hours), the singer/guitarist uses the same approach. "I don't care if you're the Stones or Michael Jackson. If you hire Bernard Allison, I'm going to be Bernard Allison. I'm not going to hold back."
On "Kentucky Fried Blues" - recorded live at the 1999 W.C. Handy Festival in Henderson, Kentucky - Allison demonstrates his take-no-prisoners attitude as well as his pride in his heritage. Until his untimely death in 1997, Bernard's father Luther was revered as a live performer par excellence. The younger Allison is conscious of his name and is proud to have taken over the family business. He dives headlong into the instrumental opener "Buzz Me" and the high-octane funk of "Going Down" before finally coming up for air on "Bad Love" - one of a trio of Luther Allison songs at the heart of this hour-long set. The funky complaint "Life Is A Bitch" and "Midnight Creeper" (on which Bernard and band sound rather like Hot Chocolate) allow the horns to stretch out with lengthy solos. Allison himself is all over Buddy Guy's "Leave My Girl Alone," an 18-minute (!) slow blues he dedicates to mentors Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan. We also get to hear from the festival crowd: urging the guitarist forward on an extended breakdown and loving his "wah-wah dialogue" gag. What to do for an encore? Unpack the slide and burn up the fretboard. "Good Time Woman" shows off this side of Bernard Allison - who at 37 is a baby in blues years and is only now hitting his stride.
"Kentucky Fried Blues" is Allison's first live album in nearly a decade. If you've already had the chance to see him in concert, it'll take you back. If you haven't, it'll take you there.
--CD Notes by Vincent Abbate
- Buzz Me (Instr. Intro.)
- Going Down
- Bad Love
- Life Is A Bitch
- Midnight Creeper
- Leave My Girl Alone
- Good Time Woman