PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Bernard Allison: Across the Water

Barbara Flaska

Bernard Allison

Across the Water

Label: Tone-Cool
US Release Date: 2000-08-08
UK Release Date: Available as import

Back in the late '70s, suffering from overexposure to flashing lights and revolving mirrored balls at those new discotheques, some influential music critics banded together and pronounced that the blues was dead. One even advised those few blues devotees he imagined remaining to run out and buy up all the records in the blues bin, because there would never be another blues record released, ever. The blues was dead. Nobody paid attention to them because they were wrong.

One of the people ignoring the critics back then was young Bernard Allison. He was busy watching his dad, blues great Luther Allison, knock them on down on the line. Bernard began teaching himself to play guitar at age 10, waiting until he was 13 to show his dad what he could do. At the same time those critics were trying to chisel a tombstone, Bernard had just made his first appearance on a "live" record with his father. After finishing high school, Bernard apprenticed for years in Koko Taylor's high-flying Blues Machine. Moving to Paris in 1989 to live and play the blues with his dad, he soon performed double duty as his father's bandleader before Luther's life ended in 1997.

Bernard decided early on that the blues was his. On Across the Water he stretches his wings. He can probably play a 12-bar blues knocked unconscious, so he pushes outside his cruise zone to provide a tasteful blend of rock, funk, and blues on this disc. A good selection of material, these are uncommon arrangements that never lose momentum.

Like most good musicians, Bernard relies on understatement to show his chops. He's steeped in the blues tradition of repetition and resolution, but Bernard can do this instrumentally as well as lyrically. A good example is the way Bernard falls into a solid blues dance tune, "Change Your Way of Living." He could carry that song by himself without breaking a sweat, but he allows plenty of space and weaves gracefully around the piano and organ, large instruments that can overtake and inundate the best guitarist. Bernard moves around in the background while each of the keyboards take their respective solos, Bernard flying, dipping, and keeping things warm until he bursts into flame for his solo when he really takes it on home. When he's popping the frets off down close to the f-holes, he reminds me a little of Freddy Roulette with some of the string jumps that Johnny Winter made famous.

Bernard can play any sort of blues on guitar and he's willing to experiment with different effects. "I've Been Down" an archetypal blues tune is tinged with those fuzzed effects that rock-blues guitarists like Harvey Mandel edged into, but Bernard's work is also dripping with the heat of Texas blues guitar like Stevie Ray Vaughn. Impressive, and just like the song says, Bernard's been playing the blues "since the age of ten."

Bernard's got it all. He possesses a wonderful singing voice and enough confidence in his tremendous talent to risk innovation. The blues isn't dead, it's evolving. There are fine young blues thoroughbreds beginning to move around the tracks and Bernard Allison is a sure bet.

He works hard for it. Check www.Bernardallison.com for his tour schedule. If you're lucky, he'll be playing in a town near you. In the meantime, this record is invitation enough to try to grab a ticket for one of his shows.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.


Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.


'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.


ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.


The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.


Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.


Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.


Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".


John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.