Ruf Records recently released a live two-disc CD/DVD set by the late bluesman Luther Allison that, in all regards, absolutely smokes. Recorded onstage at the 1997 Montreal Jazz Festival — just four days before Allison was diagnosed with the terminal cancer that took his life one month later — Songs from the Road documents the guitarist/singer in truly awe-inspiring form.
The CD includes 80 minutes of the 90-minute set Allison performed on the evening of July 4. The DVD features the 56-minute video version of that show — originally aired on Canadian television — as well as bonus footage of an interview with Allison and a documentary of his life. For blues fans and connoisseurs of good music in general, the entire package is well worth hearing and watching. Allison was a thoroughly impassioned monster guitarist with a raw, powerful voice that conveyed great depths of experience and wisdom. The DVD footage really captures his charisma and spirit. In obvious ways, his sound begs comparisons to Buddy Guy’s blistering brand of blues, but Allison had a tougher, more formidable presence. There are few blues musicians from any era that he didn’t tower above, as this package so amply demonstrates. Ruf Records President Thomas Ruf, one of Allison’s longstanding friends, was right on the money when he recently remarked, “The blues lost a true hero when he died.”
For those who’ve never had the pleasure of hearing or seeing Allison, Songs from the Road is an exceptionally fine place to start. And it’s retailing for a special low price. Highly recommended.