Consider that blues guitar legends B.B. King and Buddy Guy are still playing and touring at the ages of 85 and 74, respectively, and it becomes painfully obvious that fellow guitar great Luther Allison was taken from us too soon. When Allison died in August of 1997, just five days shy of his 58th birthday, the blues world was robbed of, potentially, upwards of two decades of Allison’s ferocious and emotive guitar licks.
A devastating lung cancer diagnosis cut short what would be Allison’s last tour in July of 1997, and the recently released Songs From The Road, a brilliant CD/DVD combination, chronicles what was one of Allison’s final live performances. Recorded on July 4th, 1997, during the Montreal Jazz Festival, the nearly 90 minute set (56 minutes of which are featured on the DVD) is just a snapshot of the legendary 4 hour shows for which Allison was famous.
But that 90 minute window into Allison’s bluesy soul is enough to show you that he played, that night, like a man possessed, like a man who knew the curtain was drawing to a close. Allison cajoled and bent every note he could out of his guitar and sang with that distinctive growl in his voice. And, for the whole night, he had the audience in the palm of his hand.
Highlights from the blazing set include Allison’s trademark “(Watching You) Cherry Red Wine” and the scorching show opener, “Cancel My Check.” Completely different in spirit – the former a bluesy shuffle and the latter a fiery rocker – these two tunes best display Allison’s dexterity, his ability to play purposefully, regardless of the tempo.
This CD/DVD collection should be part of the library of any serious blues lover. It’s a fitting legacy to Luther Allison, a guitar playing blues master whose star burned brightly but dimmed too early.
Songs From The Road is out now on Ruf Records.