Listening to Underground, it is unfathomable to conceive of this as a new release. Yet this amazing body of work, recorded in 1958 by then 18-year-old Luther Allison, is just now seeing the light of day. The discovery and release of Allison’s debut recording represents a monumental blues find that could well be the most significant material to surface since Robert Johnson’s last release.
Like many other blues greats, Allison did not achieve critical acclaim until much later in life. Though the disc is but a half-an-hour of raw studio material, Allison’s raw talent offers an early glimpse of the greatness to come. Allison’s guitar is raw and pure, often times showing a strong Elmore James influence. Other times he cuts loose with primal funk, ringing single-note leads and deep note bends, as on “Cut You Loose,” that was the truly cutting edge in 1958.
Underground also marked the production debut of Bobby Rush, the soul-blues legend whose Chicago-based band featured Allison at the time. Rush arranged the studio time to let Allison play whatever he felt, right from the top of his head. From the opening notes of “Hideaway,” a precursor to the Freddie King classic of the same name, to the closing jam on “Rock Me Baby,” Underground finally has its chance to take a much deserved spot amongst the best blues albums ever recorded. It may have taken 50 years, but such high praise is truly well deserved.
Underground is out now on Ruf Records.