Bernard Allison
Across the Water
Tone-Cool 1178 A

Blues, rock, funk and soul ó Bernard Allisonís got it all on his new CD, Across the Water, and itís all good!

Bernardís blues heart pumps a big olí shot of rockíníroll blood into his exciting first recording for the Tone-Cool label, which seems to be guaranteeing its already talent-laden roster some new Grammy and W.C. Handy Award nominations next year with rising stars like Allison and the North Mississippi Allstars.

Bernard, Luther Allisonís son and the direct heir of his fatherís blues legacy, will never, ever desert his blues roots, as evidenced on the albumís most stunning cut, "Iíve Been Down," the centerpiece of the disc. But the blistering, fat-toned riffs Bernard unleashes on this tune are definitely SRV-worthy.

Bernard often pays tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan in his live shows, showing affection and respect for the Texas blues-rock legend by nailing one of Stevieís slow blues burners and demonstrating his own considerable chops in the process. On Across the Water, Bernard also tips his double-rattlesnake-head-topped hat to a pair of guitarists held in high esteem by Stevie and himself: Jimi Hendrix and Colin James.

Allisonís heavy, molten guitar on the title track comes with a decidedly Hendrix feel, and he does a rousing cover (minus the horns) of Jamesí sonic-rocking, fire-and-ice put-down of a former girlfriend, "I Just Came Back to Say Good Bye" (with the oh-so-cold line, "I didnít look up your number, just looked up on the wall").

Funk and rock pair up nice and tight on Bernardís brass-brightened "Thereís No Higher Love," the driving "Feels Kinda Funny," the Bernard- and Bobby Rush-penned "Meet Me Half Way," and the discís opening track, "The Riverís Rising." Memphis rock-blues chanteuse Reba Russell is all over the album as one of the back- up vocalists who enhance Bernardís R&B groove, especially on "Work It Out," and his tenderly rendered cover of his dadís tune, "Love Is Free," which Bernard ignites with guitar solos as soulful as a deep, slow, lingering kiss.

Bernard wrote or co-wrote five of the 11 songs on Across the Water and enhanced the variety of the new disc with the stripped-down, honky-tonk piano blues of "Change Your Way of Living" (written by his dad) and the twangy, hook-laden swamp-rock of "I Want to Get You Back," contributed by hit-makers Gary Nicholson and Tom Hambridge.

All in all, the lively mix of musical styles, vocals and guitar on Bernardís eighth album suggest that his previous releases, as tasty as they may be, have given us only a hint of the musical well-spring still untapped inside him.

ó Linda Seubold

©2001 Blues Access, Boulder, Colorado, USA