Personnel: Bernard Allison (vocals, guitar, acoustic guitar); Bernard Allison; Mike Vlahakis (strings, Fender Rhodes piano, Clavinet, Wurlitzer organ, keyboards, synthesizer); Jassen Wilber (bass guitar); Ron Sutton (drums); Brian Johnson (percussion); Paul Diethelm (guitar, dobro); Jellybean Johnson (guitar); Bruce McCabe (piano).
Audio Mixer: Bernard Allison.
Recording information: Echo Bay Studios, New Hope, MN; Soundworks Studio, Eau Claire, WI.
Bernard Allison got some valuable advice from his father, Luther, before the latter's death in 1997: "Don't be afraid to go outside of the blues," he said. "Don't let them label you like they did me." Bernard has obviously taken that advice to heart; his solo albums have been a rich mixture of rock, funk, blues, and R&B. Most of his recordings have been released in Europe, where he has made his home for a decade. The release of Higher Power comes a little while after his return to the States, and reflects a lifetime of both good times and bad. The album's most noticeable lyrical element is the recurring theme of recovery from addiction -- "I've Learned My Lesson" (from which the album's explicitly AA-derived title is taken) and "New Life I'm In" are two of the most explicit blues-based odes to a 12-step program since Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Wall of Denial." On the funkier, less pious side are the soulful "Raggedy and Dirty" (charmingly, he pronounces that word "raggly") and the funky, vaguely misogynistic "Woman Named Trouble." You'll hear hints of his father's playing peeking through from time to time, but even more pronounced are Allison's debts to Jimi Hendrix and, to a lesser extent, Johnny Winter, who has served as something of a mentor in the area of slide technique over the years. Bernard Allison's style is a bit idiosyncratic and not all of his experiments work perfectly, but it's so refreshing to hear an original voice working in the general area of the blues that it's easy to forgive a failed risk or two. Recommended. ~ Rick Anderson