A Band of Brothers is Back

Getting along with your brother can be tricky. Although, it may be less so if you happen to be a girl. However, if you are two boys AND brothers, things can become turbulent pronto. Just ask Dave and Phil Alvin. They almost killed each other before they called a truce.

Recently, while surfing the web and munching on some tortilla chips and Gordo’s Cheese Dip (I like Queso), yours truly happened upon a new tune by two of my favorite performers – the Alvin Brothers. It was from a new CD called “Common Ground” and features the songs of legendary blues/folk writer-performer Big Bill Broonzy.

If you like, we’ll pause this post for a second while you go get your own container of Gordo’s, some chips, or if you’re one of those health nuts, grab some raw vegetables for dipping in your Gordo’s and a cold one. Go ahead, take your time. We’ll be here when you get back with the YouTube video of that song I just mentioned.

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(How long does it take for someone to grab some Gordo’s?)

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OK. You’re back? Great.

If you like, click HERE for one of the cuts from “Common Ground.” After the song starts, come back here and you can listen while you read the rest of this blog post.

The Brothers Build the Blasters

The Alvin brothers are from a little factory town of Downey, California and at the ripe old age of 15, the oldest brother – Phil – decided he’d become a musician and started a R&B band with his neighborhood buddies. They called the band The Blasters. Phil was and is a gifted singer, guitarist and harmonica player and his younger brother – Dave – wanted to follow in his brother footsteps.  This happens a lot with younger brothers.

After many fits and starts, Dave joined his brother and the neighborhood guys from Downey in The Blasters and realized that, in addition to being a singer and guitar player, he could write songs with infectious musical hooks. So, the band cut a record in the 1980’s called “American Music” with five original songs by Dave. One of these songs – “Marie Marie” – was a moderate success and the band hit the road to support it. It was about this time that Dave and Phil started hitting each other. Often.

There were many instances where Phil and Dave would get into an argument before the gig, have it flare up DURING the gig and begin throwing punches at each other on stage. Needless to say, the audience watching this middleweight boxing event didn’t know if this was a part of the show, or not. Eventually, Dave left the band for a solo career and The Blasters continued touring without much success.

The brothers would have continued to be estranged except for Phil’s near death in Spain while touring with The Blasters. This caused both brothers to realize that life is short. So, after 30-years of estrangement they mended their fences and started playing music together again.

Since they grew up listening to blues and R&B artists like Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Big Joe Williams and Big Bill Broonzy, it seemed like a good idea to record Common Ground: Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin Play and Sing the Songs of Big Bill Broonzy. Take it from the Big Dipper…it was a good idea. This record is stunning. Click HERE to sample another cut.

How About You?

Thinking about the experience of Dave and Phil reminds us that having a brother can both drive your nuts and make you smile. In my case, my brother and I also had a band and we fought with each other from time to time, but we never had fists flying at our little gigs. As we’ve gotten older, family and work matters have conspired to keep us busy. As a result we don’t see each other nearly enough. We need to change that.

How about you? Do you have a brother or sister who drove you nuts when you were growing up? Don’t wait too long to renew that relationship. If they live close enough, grab a few containers of Gordo’s, a bag of chips and a six-pack and go see what they’ve been up to.  Take it from Phil and Dave Alvin. There’s always Common Ground.