Across the Water is the sixth solo album from guitarist Bernard Allison,
son of soulful Chicago bluesman Luther Allison. The younger Allison is
also a former
sideman to legendary blues icons such as Koko Taylor and Willie Dixon.
The album is only his second domestic release; though American by birth,
he's primarily followed his muse in Europe, where he's a popular live attraction.
The hip-teasing, piano-dominated "Change Your Way of Living" (RealAudio excerpt) is fun clubhouse blues, but the title track and "Feels Kinda Funny" exhibit the qualities most prevalent on this Jim Gaines-produced album: songs with conscientious messages, a big sound, thumping basslines and fat, cutting guitar tones.
Allison's own vocals are particularly expressive on the driving "The River's Rising" (RealAudio excerpt). On the wah-drenched "Meet Me Half Way," he makes a convincing plea over urgently funky riffs that finally burst into a litany of ecstatic notes. "I've Been Down" smokes, courtesy of Allison's Texas-by-way-of-Stevie-Ray-Vaughan influences.
Across the Water is a strong album and presents an original, energizing vision of the blues, though it leans heavily toward the rock end of the spectrum. That being said, the occasional use of fadeouts instead of clean song endings is disappointing. Also, if not for Allison's forceful guitar solo, the sincere ballad "Love Is Free" (RealAudio excerpt) could be blues-free pop, while the breathy background vocals on "Work It Out" create a smooth, urban R&B texture that's rather jarring beside the intense and gritty guitar workouts that define the rest of the album.