Among the countless concerts, reunions and every other stripe of live performance at the recent South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin, Texas, L.A. roots-rock stalwarts Phil and Dave Alvin of the Blasters generated considerable buzz from their first duo show in a decade.
In addition to dipping into the songbook they crafted out of years in Southland dive bars and clubs with the Blasters, the Alvins also tapped into their upcoming tribute album to blues man Big Bill Broonzy, titled “Common Ground: Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin Play and Sing the Songs of Big Bill Broonzy.”
Pop & Hiss is premiering an intimate performance of the song that is perhaps Broonzy’s best-known, “Key to the Highway,” which was shot in preparation for 2014 Record Store Day on April 19. The Alvins are backed by guitarist Chris Miller, bassist Brad Fordam and drummer Lisa Pankratz from Dave's Guilty Ones band. A special Record Store Day release titled "Songs From Common Ground" includes four tracks from the full album pressed on two 10" vinyl discs that will be bound like 78 rpms of old.
Like many sibling musicians, the Alvin brothers have had rocky times over the years, and there were long stretches during which they rarely spoke to one another.
But after a serious health scare for Phil while he was on tour in Europe in 2012 that required hospitalization (during which he technically died on the operating table and was resuscitated), the brothers set their differences aside. Last year, the original lineup of the Blasters reunited and performed with X and the Knitters in a benefit to help pay off Phil's medical bills.
With the Broonzy album, the Alvins have made their first record together in nearly 30 years.
"We argue sometimes,” Dave says, “but we never argue about Big Bill Broonzy." The Arkansas-born musician was significantly influential that he was invited to be part of the historic “From Spirituals to Swing” concert held in 1938 at Carnegie Hall in New York, billed at the time as his first performance in front of a white audience.
A full story on the Alvins will be coming closer to the album’s June 3 release date. Here is “Key to the Highway”:
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