It's no accident that the Blasters released a live album (Over There) just two years after their 1980 debut American Music. Brothers Phil and Dave Alvin excel in front of an audience. Dave quit the Blasters in 1986, and Phil carried on for a while, with Dave rejoining in 2002 for a series of reunion concerts. Pretty much every Blasters highlight has taken place before a crowd of partying onlookers.
Dave Alvin has also lit up local stages several times with the Knitters, created in 1983 with John Doe and Exene Cervenka of X (a group Alvin briefly joined before going solo). He performed some of his most legendary sets with the aptly named Pleasure Barons with San Diegan hellraisers Mojo Nixon and Country Dick Montana, living up to their billing as "the Las Vegas revue by guys who'll never be asked to play Vegas."
Alvin performs at Acoustic Music San Diego on Saturday, November 5.
WHAT'S IN YOUR CD PLAYER?
1. "Rockin' Wild in Chicago. Very raw live tracks recorded in various small Windy City bars in the mid-'60s by the brilliant guitarist Magic Sam on the Delmark label. Maybe the best blues guitar record in years. This CD proves what a huge tragedy his early death was."
2. "The Band of Jesse James, on the Rounder label. Also by a guy who sadly died too young: California songwriter Jim Ringer. An incredibly moving, soulful singer and a powerful wordsmith."
HARDEST SONG TO PLAY IN YOUR LIVE SET?
"'Somewhere in Time.' I wrote it with David Hidalgo and Louie Perez from Los Lobos, and the vocal range of the melody is quite demanding. I usually hit a couple of bum notes, but I love the song so much that I don't care."
RAREST RECORD YOU OWN?
"Blues After Hours by Elmore James, on Crown Records. It's the only LP by Elmore that was released in his lifetime. I paid 35 cents for it at the Paramount Drive-In swap meet back in the early '70s. It's worth a whole lot more than that now. [I wish I owned] anything by Charley Patton on Paramount."
PERFORMERS YOU'D LOVE TO PLAY WITH?
"I've been fortunate enough to have played with some real legends -- from Bob Dylan and Tom Waits to Little Milton and Big Joe Turner -- but I would've loved to have had the chance to play with long-gone greats like Howlin' Wolf, Johnny 'Guitar' Watson, Woody Guthrie, and Hank Williams."
WEIRDEST LOCAL GIG?
"One night around 1991 I was playing the old Spirit club. Near the end of my set, the electrical polarity of the stage changed, for some unknown reason. When my lips touched the vocal microphone, the power for the entire club was blown out. The club went totally dark and silent. I was thrown backwards into my amp by the force of the electrical shock and landed on the floor. The sound system, the neon beer signs, the refrigerator -- everything was dead. A woman in front of the stage said, 'Powerful lips, Alvin.'"
SOMETHING ABOUT YOU THAT FEW WOULD KNOW OR GUESS?
"I really do love my brother, Phil."