Family in general and brothers in particular can screw up a band like walnuts in lime Jell-O. The Kinks. The Black Crowes. Oasis. The roll call of groups undone by power struggles that began when someone got more Christmas presents than someone else is nearly endless.
The Blasters could qualify in that spotty sweepstakes, at least to a certain extent. After exploring the Blues, R&B and Rockabilly through various band incarnations in their hometown of Downey, Calif., in the ’70s, brothers Dave and Phil Alvin joined forces in The Blasters in 1979. The Alvin brothers, along with bassist John Bazz and drummer Bill Bateman (with assistance from pianist Gene Taylor, R&B sax icon Lee Allen and sax legend-in-waiting Steve Berlin), cross-pollinated the obscure Blues/etc. tunes they learned from old 45s and 78s with the Punk fervor they had witnessed in the nascent L.A. scene, becoming one of the architects of Roots Rock in the late ’70s and early ’80s.
With so much critical success, the quartet should have been huge, but MTV promoted flashier British translators over the band and The Blasters fractured along Phil-as-vocalist and Dave-as-songwriter stress points. After several public dust-ups, Dave left The Blasters in 1986 for a one-off with X, then launched his solo career; Phil continued to field some version of The Blasters for tours and festivals, occasionally reassembling the originals for reunion circuits and live recordings (particularly 2002’s electrifying Trouble Bound).
The current Blasters lineup (sans Dave) recorded 2005’s 4-11-44 and 2012’s Fun on Saturday Night. This year marked the first time in almost 30 years that the Alvin brothers hit the studio together for their brilliant tribute to Big Bill Broonzy, the much lauded Common Ground, which led to a successful Alvin brothers tour earlier this year.
With Dave returning to his solo career, at least for now, the three original Blasters (Phil, Bazz and Bateman), along with guitarist Keith Wyatt, an official member for the past 18 years, have hit the road again in search of the perfect American chord. Long may they blast.
THE BLASTERS play Newport's Southgate House Revival Sunday, Aug. 31. Find tickets/more info here .