When Dave Alvin got a late-night phone call saying his older brother Phil had died in Spain, he "immediately started thinking, 'Where's that 70 bucks he owes me?' "
Just kidding, of course.
Phil Alvin was resuscitated by doctors and now refers to the episode as "a little health scare," as well as "a good PR thing." Nevertheless, it did generate a resolve between the brothers, who had formed the Blasters together in 1979, to spend more time working together.
"We both lost a lost some friends and both lost our best friends in the past few years," says Dave, 58, who stopped working with the Blasters in 1986 to start a solo career. "So we're both feeling like, 'OK, I guess we're not immortal, and if we're not immortal, we should do something.' "
Phil, 61, adds that, "The fact I flat-lined and this wonderful doctor brought me back to life...I think that gave a context to try and do something together before something else bad happens."
The result is "Common Ground: Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin Play and Sing the Songs of Bill Broonzy." It's the brothers' first album together in 30 years and nods to their shared roots in the Southern bluesman's music, which Phil has been singing since he was a teenager. Dave says the idea came after a significant amount of thought about the best way for he and Phil to work together again.
"I knew if I was to write 10 or 12 songs for my brother and I to sing that would take a long time," explains Dave, who's also worked with X and the Knitters. "So I thought we should go back to square one and start with our common ground of being blues fans. We could do a record of songs by a bunch of different people, but then I thought we should focus on somebody so that there's a thread of continuity.
"But we wanted to have one artist that we could reinterpret in our own way, and...with Big Bill Broonzy you can play his songs like Big Bill or you can not play 'em like Big Bill, 'cause they're just great songs on their own. So we gravitated towards him."
Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin with the Guilty Ones
Tuesday, July 22. Doors open at 8 p.m.
The Magic Bag, 22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale
Tickets are $25
Call 248-544-3030 or visit www.themagicbag.com
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