I always feel bogus reviewing the blues, as if my love for the musical form is inauthentic. Sort of like the guy that orders the most expensive bottle of wine even though the cheaper bottle is a better wine. On the other hand, there are critics that believe that Luther Allison is not authentic because he has lived in Paris since 1974. And why not live in Paris? The pay is better, the crowds bigger and more appreciative.
Regardless, Luther Allison is the real deal. On his latest album (his previous album was up for a Grammy), he sparses-out. I did not make up this term; I heard it on PBS. No electric guitars, or drums, or horns, or samples or synthesizers. None. This is blues cut to the bare bone: acoustic guitar, bass, steel guitar, harmonica, and vocals. It’s like a group of friends going over, sitting down, and playing their music for you. Other than "You’re the One" and "Meet Me in My Own Hometown," Allison wrote the rest of the CD.
"Farmer’s Child," with its guitar picking and lyrics and jazzy beat, struck a chord for me as I was raised on a farm: "People don’t like farmers they don’t seem to want to know."
The essence of the song is that people want to stay unaware of where their food comes from or the hard work or the slave wages that lie behind it, or any of that nasty real stuff. Allison sticks close to the basic blues themes of rural life, love, drinking, getting treated bad, and loneliness.
His son Bernard Allison backs him up on the acoustic slide guitar. A powerful emotive quality is displayed in Bernard’s work that is often lost with the addition of electric guitars. Since the instruments are in the background, the subtle inflections and sincerity of Luther’s voice is emphasized. This is most apparent in "Hand Me Down My Moonshine," which should become a classic. After a mournful guitar solo, Luther softens his voice to a prayerful plea:
We got a conversation and
I want you to know what I said,
Hand me down my Moonshine
Let the Moon Man Talk
Let the Moon Man Sing
Let the Moon Man Smile
Let the Moon Man howl in the clouds
Hand me down my Moonshine.
Purity of sound and emotion make this an enjoyable CD for anyone who enjoys the blues, regardless of race, creed or the fact they are French. As such, it proves an important addition to a large or small blues collection.