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Luther Allison

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Luther Attison: Luther 's Blues

Gordy G967V1.

Ann Arbor "discovered" Luther Allison, and Ann Arbor loves Luther Allison, and if we can't have him in person, the next best thing is a Luther Allison album. Right? Right!

This is Luther's second album for Motown, better than the first, but still with a few weaknesses. Fortunately they are minor and the improvements far more.

Motown still insists on its touch of soul, but lets Luther play a little more blues here starting with the fine title tune, written by Luther, and featuring his famous "talking guitar."

In fact, Luther's guitar is much more evident all through this album. Expressive, eloquent, slashing, stinging, talking. . . singing. This is the bluesman who has excited audiences as few other modern young bluesmen have done.

Luther came to Ann Arbor first, back in the spring of 1969 - a sort of preview for the upcoming Ann Arbor Blues Festival. John Fischel found him in a little club in Chicago, booked him to the festival, and brought him here for a special concert at the Union.

Almost nobody here had heard of Luther Allison. And the "crowd" who showed up for that first concert numbered less than 500. But they were so impressed by what they heard that they slipped out to call friends, and by the time the intermission was over and the second half began, the Union ballroom was jammed.

Luther came back to the first Blues Festival, and in the company of the greatest, he not only held his own, but he was one of the stars of the show.

He's been back to every festival, and to several club and concert dates in between, and every time the word gets around that Luther's in town, and the place is packed.

It's hard to describe the effect he has on an audience, except that it's as electric as his guitar. The rapport is amazing, and the amount of love that flows back and forth between the audience and Luther is amazing to behold.

But little of that energy has ever been captured on record, and this album is no exception. All the words, all the notes are there, but the excitement isn't. His voice, especially on Roosevelt Sykes old blues song, "Driving Wheel," is strained, and "Studio-sounding."

A few months ago at the Primo Show Bar, Luther played to his usual capacity crowd. The tapes from that performance, played over the "Gene's Blues" show on WCBN capture a feeling that none of Luther's albums have done.

Here was the blues - the gut-wrenching, dues-paid, heart-searing blues that's never been captured on record. Luther and his audience made it happen that night and maybe the audience was as important as Luther.

But that's what Luther needs to make a really great record - one that's in him and never gotten out yet.

If it ever does - if somebody has the guts and taste to record him live before a good audience - it will knock the record-buying public right on their collective asses.

"Luther's Blues" is a fine album. It's the next best thing. But it's definitely next best.

-Doug Fulton