“Lost time is not found again.” This ancient idiom is at
the heart of brother’s Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin’s long,
tumultuous relationship. However, in Dave’s own words,
“Sometimes Fate, or God or the Universe, gives you a
rare chance to prove an old saying is wrong.” The
brothers’ new album, appropriately titled ‘Lost Time’
does just that.
Over ‘Lost Time’s’ twelve tracks, Dave and Phil pay homage to a number of artists and songs that had an early, formative influence. Everyone from Lead Belly to James Brown is represented, but the figure who looms largest on the album, and in the brothers’ own musical journey, is Big Joe Turner. The Alvin’s met Big Joe as teenagers, and he would mentor them for the remainder of his life. They remain his humble students, and cut four Big Joe songs for ‘Lost Time.’
If their GRAMMY-nominated 2014 album ‘Common Ground’ was the sound of a partnership rekindled, ‘Lost Time’ is a four-alarm fire. Dave’s guitar work slithers and stings as never before, and Phil’s feral howl cuts to the core. Dave and Phil both sing and play guitar throughout ‘Lost Time,’ and are joined by their crack band including Lisa Pankratz (drums), Brad Fordham (bass), and Chris Miller (guitar).
Though Dave and Phil Alvin have had their moments --
both in their band the Blasters and other endeavors --
they’re hardly battling brothers akin to rock ‘n’ roll
peers such as the Kinks’ Davies and Oasis’ Gallaghers.
And since the 2014 release of “Common Ground” and the launch of their touring duo act, things have been positively copacetic between the two of them.
The Alvins -- who releaed another album, “Lost Time,” in 2015 -- are doing another go-round this year, both with a full band and in a more stripped down acoustic format. The arrangement clearly has legs, and we checked in with Dave Alvin about what’s working so well, and what the future is likely to bring...
Any push and pull between the two of them, which led to Dave leaving the Blasters in 1986, seems long gone. “It’s always fun, and it’s always slightly goofy,” says Alvin, 60, who was also a short-term member of X and the Knitters. “It’s just kind of become more second nature. It’s extremely organic and extremely casual -- all the things it wasn’t 30 years ago. This is all pretty easygoing. The actual touring part -- the travel and the truckstop food and the motel rooms -- that doesn’t get easier for anybody out here. But the actual playing part, that’s a breeze.”
The Alvins may not fill arenas or stadiums, but they have built a particularly strong bond with the fans who come to see them play. “The thing I get addicted to is the extension between the audience and the musician, and where you can go from that,” Alvin says. “When you’re playing weird music like we play, music that’s somewhat out of the mainstream -- it’s not Katy Perry or One Direction, right? -- the audience tends to have a closer bond to the artist. There’s an aspect of community to it, and I love that.”
Alvin expects the brothers will record a third album together “at some point here.” But unlike the previous two, which covered some of their favorite American roots music, he predicts the next set “will be a little different, maybe. Both albums we did were -- again, using that word -- organic. They were just like, ‘OK, here’s these songs and songwriters we’ve loved. We’ve always played ‘em but we’ve never recorded them, so let’s do that.’ Whatever happens next, it’ll probably be original songs, but it’ll have that same vibe of organic.”
By Gary Graff, The Oakland Press ("Sound Check: Dave and Phil Alvin at the Magic Bag -- Three things to know")