Born in Chicago on November 26th, 1965, the youngest of nine children Bernard Allison was first introduced to the roots of black music and the art of the electric guitar by his father, the late great Luther Allison. Bernard made his first appearance on record at age 13, when he played on a live LP his father recorded in Peoria, IL.
"I didn't start to play 'til I was maybe 10 years of age" Bernard recalled "I picked up the guitar, listened to records. I was in grade school and I played with the high school jazz band. They thought I was reading the sheet music, but actually I was making up everything I could play."
Soon after graduating from High School, he began a three-year guitar apprenticeship in Koko Taylor's high-flying Blues Machine. He also played in the late Willie Dixon's Blues All-Stars and performed with his Dad at the 1983 Blues Festival - one of the event's highlights. Along the way, Bernard picked up slide guitar tips from Johnny Winter and in the 80's also learned from the late Stevie Ray Vaughan.
With those experiences under his belt, Bernard moved to Paris in 1989 to live and play the blues with his father. He joined the tourband of Luther Allison after a furious collaboration of "Father & Son" at the '89 Chicago Blues Festival. A recording of this formation is to be heard on the Luther Allison album "Let's Try It again" (RUF Records). Bernard released his first solo album in 1990 with the significant title "The Next Generation". In 1999, two years after Luther passed away, Bernard decided to move back to the States to go back to his roots and push his career in his native country. Bernard seems to have inherited Luther's knack for igniting audiences, but he's no clone of his famous father. He is definitely blazing his own path with a style that reflects a unique mix of traditional and modern influences. The Allison torch has been passed, and it's clear that Bernard takes his role as its bearer very seriously. He's assumed the challenge of keeping the blues alive and growing - a commitment he renews every time he takes the stage.
In 2004/2005, Bernard Allison released his 6th album on Ruf Records, "Higher Power". Whether you pay your respects to Bernard Allison as one of the high powered blues guitarists in the world or you, like Bernard, pay your respects to that Higher Power that guides you through life, these are 13 songs Bernard sings that will speak to you.
Bernard totes the same smokin' six string shooter that his late father Luther Allison assaulted the blues with. And he is blessed with his father's soulful voice, spiritual devotion, and a musical freedom which experiments with the blues.
"In order for anything to expand, you have to take a risk," says Bernard. "Blues is about experimenting and getting your feelings across to someone else. And if you want to keep it going, people are going to have to give it all a chance because we're losing all our creators. Because I've been taking risks on every album I've recorded, this record is just a logical progression from everything else I've done. Instead of playing rippin' 12 bar blues guitar over and over, there are bluesy songs, soul, funk, R&B songs and a couple of rock things which shows the overall musicianship of Bernard Allison."
The major risk Bernard takes here is in his song writing, where he is confident enough to strip away the layers and bare himself to the world. It has taken Bernard a long time to feel free to talk or write a song about what's going on within him or his personal tragedies. After decades of chasing the muse, Bernard is now settled down raising a family without the old personal vices. Thus the music he's written speaks of the inner peace and companionship every human searches for. The CD opens with Bernard's trademark blues rock guitar, but it rocks out with a moral. Therapists recommend getting problems out, instead of concealing them. In the highly personal opening song "I've Learned My Lesson," Bernard sheds himself of any disguises and admits to the world the inner personal problems that have held him back. That is until his personal Higher Power delivered him safely to inner peace.
Other original songs like "Stay With Me Tonight" or "Next To You" speak intimately about his love of the security of his family. While in other songs like "New Life," Bernard goes even further by apologizing to those he's hurt by word or deed.
And that's the magic power of the blues. If Bernard's honesty touches just one person with a similar struggles then the power of the blues works. Then Bernard becomes the higher power by healing another troubled soul. "Musically and lyrically this is definitely a mature effort. I've been through a lot since the passing of my father. I'm married and I have started my own family. This music comes from everyday responsibility and lifestyle. I'm calling the album Higher Power because there were times when I had to pray to my own higher power to help me through. Immediately after my father's death I was still touring, I wanted to continue because that was what he wanted me to do. I feel that with his presence, he's still, even today, with me everywhere I go, and the help of my higher power, there's no going wrong. That is the message in many of these songs."
Amid all the daily pop culture pressures to be the next American Idol why does Bernard stay rooted in the blues? "The blues is my roots. Regardless of how far outside of the blues I reach for tones, I can't ever leave the blues. Whenever I play, all those guitar parts are Luther Allison coming through me. My dad was the same way, he wasn't all blues. He loved Otis Redding or Chuck Berry. I'm just showing where my influences come from. And respecting the people who got me to this point."