California siblings, Dave and Phil Alvin brought their band, The Guilty Ones, to Tucson’s Flycatcher January 29, 2015. The show was loud, proud, hot and sweaty and packed to the gills with folks ready to dig in to the Alvins’ blues, rockabilly, and R&B song offerings.
The show opener was Jonah Tolchin, a young folk, blues, singer-songwriter from New England. He was accompanied by a ‘cracker-jack,’ slide guitarist, Danny Roaman. His tour with Dave and Phil Alvin is supporting his newest album release, Clover Lane. His gutsy, raw delivery got the audience in the groove for the Alvin brothers.
The brothers, Phil Alvin and Dave Alvin, drifted apart in 1986 when Dave Alvin went solo after being a member of the band, The Blasters with brother, Phil. The two brothers reunited after Phil’s near death experience in Spain in 2012. Last year, they released their first album in many years called Common Ground, a tribute to Big Bill Broonzy.
Broonzy influenced a variety of guitarists from uptown musicians to country blues guitarists like Big Joe Williams. His influence reached guitarists Muddy Waters as well as Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton. Broonzy made more than 200 recordings between 1927 and 1942. His best-known song is the blues standard, “Key to the Highway.”
The first song in the set was, “All By Myself,” and it was immediately clear that Phil Alvin is in fine voice, considering he had a tracheotomy during his life threatening illness, three years ago. Dave Alvin remains a guitar-hero of the roots-rock scene and he is able to play any style, acoustic or electric guitar. Actually, the first six songs are from the new album. Dave introduced the songs with, “This is one of the first songs we ever heard. My brother was about 12 when he brought home our first record of Big Bill Broonzy. He put it on the turntable, turned up the volume, and here we are today.“ This led into “I Feel So Good.”
Dave’s fretwork is astounding and Phil’s harmonica is riveting. Dave mentioned during the show, “You are probably wondering what kind of mother would the Alvin boys have? We had an amazing, loving mother that when my brother was twelve, my mother would drive him 24 miles from our hometown of Downey, CA up to the questionable Lido Hotel (Hotel California) in Hollywood so my brother could take harmonica lessons from the great blues harmonica player, Sonny Terry. “ “Key to the Highway” gave us a glimpse into that harmonica legacy. Click here for a complete set list.
The Guilty Ones, Dave’s band, gave the brothers Alvin outstanding support throughout the set! Lisa Pankratz, on drums kept the band on time, all the time! Chris G Miller, the other guitarist in the band augmented Dave’s guitar in fine style and Brad Fordham’s dynamite bass finished out the band. All were tour de force musicians.
The room and stage at the Flycatcher was too small for this show. The packed venue was uncomfortable for both patrons and performers, but the performers gave the crowd everything and more! Hopefully their next visit to Tucson will be at the Rialto Theatre for this hard-driving rockabilly, blues band giving the blues, 100 percent honesty, intensity, and truth!