Blasting Back

Dave and Phil Alvin find new musical life together in old songs

Blasting Back
The Alvin brothers are playing together again, making up for lost time.

Battling brothers are part of a proud tradition of dysfunctional-yet-great bands, ranging from the Kinks to the Black Crowes to Oasis.

Redemption stories of brothers putting aside their differences for the sake of family and great music are rarer, but that's the tale roots-rockers Dave and Phil Alvin are spinning three decades after the acrimonious split of the Blasters.

A health scare for Phil a couple of years back inspired the Alvins to record together for the first time since 1985, tackling the songs of teenage favorite Big Bill Broonzy on 2014's Common Ground. The recording and tour were so harmonious that a follow-up seemed obvious.

Noting the band's upcoming show in Spokane, Dave jokes that Bing Crosby's works were under consideration, but his tunes don't appear on the new Lost Time, a 12-song collection of classics from the likes of Big Joe Turner, Lead Belly and James Brown. Choosing the songs, Dave says, was a matter of just remembering where his brother was coming from years ago when the Blasters were young blues-loving punks.

"When he was a teenager, he had a really good blues band. A couple of these songs were in their repertoire, and I really wanted to put a feature on my brother's vocals," Dave says. "I really think there aren't many voices like his. And it's taken me a long time to appreciate that."

Early '80s peers of L.A. bands like X and Black Flag, the Blasters always stood out thanks to their love of classic blues and rockabilly, Dave's stinging guitar and older brother Phil's distinct voice evoking singers from decades before his time. The band was beloved by critics and fellow musicians — in one month, they played gigs with the diverse likes of punks the Cramps, honky-tonkers Asleep at the Wheel and stadium-rocking royalty Queen — but never broke through commercially. Frustrated, the band frayed in the mid-'80s, with Dave quitting to launch a successful solo career, and Phil forging on with various lineups under the Blasters banner.

For fans of the Blasters, or of either Alvin's work in the years since the split, both new albums are vivid reminders of how potent the brothers can be when they work together.

For Dave, getting the chance to perform together and hang out regularly for the first time in decades is all the reward he needs now that he's 60, rather than 25.

"I'm enjoying playing music with my brother, as the [album] title implies," Dave says. "I'm trying to make up for more than 30 years of not recording together or playing together, sort of make up for lost time since we were little kids." ♦

An Evening with Dave and Phil Alvin and the Guilty Ones • Wed, Sept. 23, at 7:30 pm • $25/$30 day of • All-ages • Chateau Rive at the Flour Mill • 621 W. Mallon • • 795-2030

Anuhea: All is Bright @ Bing Crosby Theater

Fri., Dec. 9, 8 p.m.
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About The Author

Dan Nailen

Dan Nailen is the managing editor of the Inlander, where he oversees coverage of arts and culture. He's previously written and edited for The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City Weekly, Missoula Independent, Salt Lake Magazine, The Oregonian and KUER-FM. He grew up seeing the country in an Air Force family and studied...