Dave Alvin & The Blasters
So, how ironic is it that I got into The Blasters and Ry Cooder from a movie soundtrack. Furthermore, a movie based on a comic book. The funny thing is that years later, I interview Dave Alvin, and we have a conversation. And it’s about the movie I’m referring to “Streets of Fire”.
We agreed on several things about the movie but mostly how prominent the music was throughout. With him adding, “Ry Cooder and those guys “The Blasters weren’t bad either, eh?” “Dan Hartman did okay as well”. Over the years, it’s still one of my favorite interviews. At the time, he was promoting “West of the West album”.
West of the West – Homage to California
This album was something he’s wanted to do for quite while, an album that features California songs. For him it’s a love letter to his home state as well as a thank you letter to his mom. Saying that she instilled the laid-back attitude in him. When it came to creating and recording it, he and his producer Greg Leisz decide that they were going to choose songs with a “roots music” vibe.
Only focusing on the songwriters that had their roots in California basically similar to his background. Further adding that he kind of knew what songwriters he wanted such as Merle Haggard, Tom Waits, Jackson Browne and several others.
The Blasters & Beyond
Forming in 1978, in Downey, California, The Blasters were a rock and roll band that liked to play fast & loud. Their musical style leaned towards rockabilly, rock, punk and rhythm & blues added in for good measure. Featuring Phil Alvin (vocals and guitar) and Dave Alvin (guitar), with bass guitarist John Bazz and drummer Bill Bateman.
They had quite a following back then which garners them a chance to be on American Bandstand even though they got grief for it. Really? One would think that any publicity is good publicity? Either way, they still perform to this day. Furthermore, when him and his brother Phil started the Blasters, Dave says he never had any aspirations of being a songwriter just a musician playing music to make money, meet girls, get gigs and drink beer.
Back then, with The Blasters, to us, it was a noble calling by performing old blues and R&B songs. Like presenting them to the masses so people are aware of how great they are. And we wanted to keep these artists relevant. With that being said, back then there was a lot of artists performing other people’s music.
Musical Inspirations & Heroes
When I asked Dave who his influences and musical heroes were, and he laughed and says there’s WAY too many to name! He goes on to say that there are people that he was privy to see when he was really young. Also, he talks about how he and his brother used to sneak into bars at a very tender age.
Adding that his parents were very understanding. During this time the bands he & his brother got to see were along the lines of T-Bone Walker, Big Joe Turner, Johnny Guitar Watson and Lightning Hopkins which he says is not far from the music that he still performs.
Adding that he’s pretty much open to everything and like most artists, absorbing all kinds of different influences. Furthermore when it comes to his music and albums, he relies mainly on organic changes happening naturally, making each album different. Which is a rule of thumb for him as well as letting the flow take him wherever he needs to go.
Downey to Lubbock
This particular collaboration happens when Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore come together to explore the thousand miles that separates their worlds and the common ground that lies within. It’s an album that pays respect their mutual heroes, friends that have passed on and their crazy life spent on the road for too long. otherwise, known as living off dreams and gasoline. All I’m going to say is that this is an awesome collaboration with a lot of hell-raising fun to boot! You got some western swing, with a slap of the Delta blues melded with some 60s rock & roll. My favorite track is “Walk On”.
In 2014, Phil and Dave Alvin released the album “Common Ground”, a selection of Big Bill Broonzy covers, as a duo. It is the first studio collaboration by the Alvin brothers since the mid-1980s. They followed up with “Lost Time” in 2015. Some 40 years after The Blasters got started, Phil Alvin remains their front man
When I asked what advice do you have for someone just starting out? Don’t do it! OK, just kidding! In all reality, Dave recommends that whatever style of music you choose to do, just remember your roots and stick to those roots. Expand on them but always have a foundation in check and grounded. Do the best you can, practice what you’re good at and hope for the best. Well, there you go!