Grammy winner, Dave Alvin, has been roaming the highways of American music for over a quarter century. During those decades he's busted speakers with roots rock kick-starters, The Blasters, as well as mined the depths of country, folk and blues with his solo projects. A mainstay during much of this journey has been Alvin's electrifying band The Guilty Men. Following the recent death of Dave's best friend and Guilty Men accordionist Chris Gaffney in early 2008, Alvin decided to move in an exciting new musical direction. In October 2008 he stepped onto the stage of the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco with an all-star, all-female group. Since dubbed The Guilty Women, the group consists of Americana scene vets Cindy Cashdollar, Nina Gerber, Laurie Lewis, Sarah Brown, Amy Farris, Christy McWilson and Lisa Pankrantz. Special guests include Marcia Ball and Susie Thompson. The self-titled debut from this unique assemblage of players, led by Alvin, is a spirited collection of thoughtful yet dynamic tunes featuring world-class musicianship worthy of his now legendary pedigree.
In 1997, Dave Alvin – former guitarist and songwriter with the Blasters, and one of the leading advocates of classic blues and R&B on the West Coast roots rock scene – played a special show in Long Beach, California, where he was joined by three very special guests. The fabled Texas fiddler and guitarist Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Chicago harmonica master Billy Boy Arnold, and San Francisco-born blues guitarist Joe Louis Walker all sat in with Alvin that evening, making for a very eventful evening for fans of blues and American roots music. The show was captured on tape, and Live in Long Beach 1997 allows listeners to hear Alvin mix it up on-stage with a few of his heroes. Songs include "Barn Burning", "Long White Cadillac", "I Wish You Would", "Chains of Love", "Jolie Blon", "Wabash Cannonball", and more.
The title of the Alvin brothers’ follow-up to their Grammy-nominated 2014 Common Ground reunion project that found them working together for the first time in 30 years is multi-faceted and bittersweet. Clearly they are trying to make up for that lost time after not working together since Dave amicably left the Blasters in 1987. But more than that, these dozen covers are predominantly tunes that were also lost to time. Phil and Dave dig deep to reveal these hidden blues and R&B gems, then polish, rearrange and unleash them with pent up energy, providing the tracks with new leases on life. Dave’s short yet informative liner notes explain the disc is also a tribute to ’50s blues shouter and Alvin brothers friend Big Joe Turner, whose photo adorns the back cover. Four tracks are Turner covers and it’s no secret that much of Phil’s distinctive singing style dates back to that of Big Joe. But from the opening guitar and walking bass lick of Oscar Brown, Jr.’s demonic “Mr. Kicks” to the closing acoustic gospel of “If You See My Savior” (one of the few times both guys sing on the same tune), it’s clear the brothers are having a blast reviving songs they obviously love and have influenced them for decades.
Blasters founders Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin have had a famously combative relationship over the years, but as Dave once said, "We argue sometimes, but we never argue about Big Bill Broonzy." So it's fitting that their love of Big Bill brings them together in the recording studio for their first album together since the Blasters' Hard Line in 1985. Common Ground: Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin Play & Sing the Songs of Big Bill Broonzy features the Alvin Brothers performing a dozen songs from the Broonzy songbook, and while listening to this is a potent reminder of how good Broonzy's songs still sound in the 21st century, it also demonstrates the complementary talents of Dave and Phil Alvin.
Phil Alvin's second solo date, County Fair 2000 continues his thorough exploration of Americana with references to tap dancing ("Low Down Rhythm"), Ellingtonia ("The Terror"), Delta blues ("That Thing"), New Orleans brass bands ("Danny Boy's Mourning Sunset"), rockabilly/country ("County Fair 2000"), automobiles ("Wreck Your V-8 Ford"), and the Jimmy Reed-styled "Oh, Doctor." Alvin has the good taste to employ an impressive list of guests including the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Billy Boy Arnold, Cesar Rosas from Los Lobos, James Intveld, and members of the Blasters (without brother Dave Alvin.) County Fair 2000 leaves no doubt that Phil Alvin is a premier musicologist, preserving and staying true to what he loves.