Dave Alvin Phil Alvin – Common Ground: Dave Phil Alvin Play and Sing the Songs of Big Bill Broonzy (2014)

Dave Alvin Phil Alvin – Common Ground: Dave Phil Alvin Play and Sing the Songs of Big Bill Broonzy (2014)

Artist: Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin
Title Of Album: Common Ground: Dave & Phil Alvin Play and Sing the Songs of Big Bill Broonzy
Year Of Release: 2014
Label: Yep Roc Records
Genre: Blues Rock, Country Rock
Quality: Mp3
Bitrate: 320 kbps
Total Time: 42:44 Min
Total Size: 105 Mb
1. All By Myself
2. I Feel So Good
3. How You Want It Done?
4. Southern Flood Blues
5. Big Bill Blues
6. Key To The Highway
7. Tomorrow
8. Just A Dream
9. You've Changed
10. Stuff The Call Money
11. Truckin' Little Woman
12. Saturday Night Rub
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. Dave is the hot-shot (but musically savvy) guitarist whose fiery leads and switchblade solos give the melodies a spark they wouldn't have with Phil calling all the shots, and Phil has the outsized, passionate vocal style that brings Big Bill's tales to life in a way Dave's more modest instrument can't quite match (though Dave sings as well, and doesn't embarrass himself when he steps up to the mike). Put them together, and in this context you don't get the Blasters, but you do get something that recalls a bit of the wild fun that band knew how to conjure. It's clear the Alvins love this music and know how to mess with it in just the right way, and they don't treat Broonzy's tales of all manner of wild living like museum pieces, but as vital, living bits of American music, and that's how they sound on this album. Common Ground isn't "The Return of the Alvin Brothers" so much as a joyous continuation of the mission they launched when the Blasters first hit the stage in 1979, and if they're a little older and craggier in 2014, they clearly know how to make this stuff rock, and this is a modest triumph for one of roots rock's most fascinating partnerships.
"We rehearsed at David's house a few times for that," remembers Phil, "and that was a good step in bringing us back together."
Once inspiration struck for the Big Bill Broonzy project, all it took was a phone call from Dave, and Phil was onboard and ready to head into the studio for their first album together in three decades.
"We used this old Foley studio from the 30's that had been used for movie sound effects," says Dave, who shares vocal duties with his brother on the record. "We set up all in that one little room a la Sun or Chess and just recorded."
"It was easy," he continues. "I'm not as boisterous as I used to be. Like the title suggests, this is where we come together. It's square one. There was nothing to argue about outside of 'Am I playing the guitar part right?'" he laughs.
Rather than trying to recreate Broonzy's exact guitar parts and vocals note for note, though, the record honors his innovative spirit and musical adventurousness, blending chords and melodies from different songs and incorporating stylistic nods to other guitarists—everyone from Magic Sam to Bo Diddley—whose work bears Big Bill's unmistakable fingerprint.
That encyclopedic knowledge of American music, that expansive musical vocabulary and the fluency with which the Alvins slip in out and of genres and eras is what enables 'Common Ground' to triumph. Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin may have set out to honor the legacy of Big Bill Broonzy with this record, but in the process, they solidified their own as one of roots music's most exceptional duos.
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