First Appeared in The Music Box, January 2008, Volume 15, #1
Written by John Metzger
Thu January 31, 2008, 06:55 AM CST
At first glance, there definitely is something that is fishy about Luther Allisonís Underground. For starters, its eight songs drift past in less than 26 minutes, so even by LP standards, it is a ridiculously short endeavor. In addition, upon its release, blues scholars immediately scoffed at the notion that Underground was made in 1958, as the liner notes attempt to claim. Sure enough, after Ruf Records, the albumís distributor, did some more research, the company admitted that the recordings likely stemmed from a session that had been held a decade later. This controversy only adds to the feeling that the collection is another attempt by a record label to shake a few more pennies from the pockets of the late guitaristís fans.
When it is heard, however, Underground proves that, despite the overinflation of its importance and the inaccuracies of its packaging, such assumptions are unwarranted. Although itís true that Allison was merely at the beginning of his journey when he laid down these tracks, this is music that is vital, raw, and pure. Not only does it speak soulfully from his heart, but it also is filled with the burning intensity of a performer who is using his influences to forge his own identity and find his voice. Throughout the set, Allison demonstrates levels of focus, commitment, and assurance that are unmistakable, and although it took him awhile to gain widespread name recognition, thereís no question that his future promise already was present.
Backed by a band that included Bobby Rush on bass, Allison used his studio time to run through a series of blues staples, such as Roosevelt Sykesí Driviní Wheel and an abbreviated version of Willie Dixonís Easy Baby. Elsewhere, he playfully added several tributes to Dixon by tucking a bit of Tiger in Your Tank onto the tail end of Freddie Kingís Hideaway and allowing Ricky Allenís Cut You A-Loose to drift into a snippet from Spoonful. The highlights, however, are Allisonís funky, James Brown-meets-Otis Redding update of Sonny Boy Williamsonís Donít Start Me Talking and his slowly simmering cover of B.B. Kingís Rock Me Baby. Itís true that nothing on Underground is truly revelatory, and Allison later would revamp and perfect his approach to many of these songs. Nevertheless, Underground is a delightful and welcome nugget from the distant past that will please Allisonís fans and blues purists alike.
Of Further Interest...
Underground is available from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box