There are few clichés as enduring and as ultimately true as brothers who will beat each other physically and emotionally senseless, but woe to the soul outside of the family circle who inflicts the same damage. That scenario is regularly played out with an even sharper edge in a musical setting. The Gallaghers, the Everlys, the Davies, the Robinsons — the list of embattled bands of brothers is long and bruised.
The Alvins don’t fit exactly into that particular construct. Although they had their share of creative differences and physical altercations during their co-membership in The Blasters, the relationship between Dave and Phil Alvin never splintered irrevocably. Dave left the band in 1986 for stints with X, The Knitters and The Pleasure Barons, as well as a highly regarded solo career, while Phil maintained The Blasters as one of America’s finest Roots Rock bands and turned out an occasional solo album.
Over the years, Dave has reunited with Phil for occasional Blasters shows and even filled in for his older brother when he was sick, so the familial and musical bond between them remains deep and unshakeable.
Perhaps the best evidence of the connection between the Alvins is 2014’s Grammy-nominated Common Ground, their aptly titled tribute to Blues legend Big Bill Broonzy. As youngsters growing up in southern California, the Alvins were indelibly steered by the Blues — they regularly attended shows by Big Joe Turner and T-Bone Walker, and Phil received boyhood harmonica lessons from the great Sonny Terry — and the pair has long claimed their love of the genre and its major figures. To that end, the brothers followed the triumph of Common Ground with last year’s Lost Time, an equally blistering set of Blues covers by other residents of their personal pantheon, including Blind Boy Fuller, Lead Belly, Willie Dixon and Big Joe Turner, their friend and mentor. You’ll find plenty of drama at a Dave Alvin/Phil Alvin show, but it will end in blissful encores rather than fistfights.
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