2014Santa Fe, NMJames A. Little Theater8:15-9:45
“True roots heroes.” –Rolling Stone
When we booked a show with Dave & Phil Alvin in Corrales in April, it sold out two months in advance and inspired standing ovations. So we are very excited that the brothers, who founded seminal early LA punk roots band The Blasters in 1979, are coming to Santa Fe with a full band in tow for another deep dive into the American roots music catalog. “We argue sometimes, but we never argue about Big Bill Broonzy,” says Dave when explaining why he and Phil, who haven’t made an album together in three decades, were inspired to record & tour behind their just-released record, Common Ground: The Songs of Big Bill Broonzy. The brothers have shared a fascination with Broonzy since childhood. After an illness nearly took Phil’s life in 2012, they resolved to return to the studio and pay tribute to the blues legend. Common Ground includes 12 songs that capture a 30-year cross section of Broonzy’s canon, performed by the Alvins in their signature rollicking roots and stomping country blues style.
“I first remember seeing Big Bill’s picture on an album cover that I bought when I was 14 or 15,” says Phil. “I didn’t really know who he was and came home and played it and was overwhelmed by him.” “I remember the day Phil brought the record home,” adds Dave. “It was one of those childhood memories like you’re graduating grammar school or stealing your first Playboy. For me, Big Bill is in that elite company of Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, Robert Johnson, people like that.” Broonzy’s long career spanned several stylistic incarnations, all of which the brothers sought to capture on Common Ground. “He played both country blues and ragtime blues picking, and then in the late 1930’s and ’40’s he was one of the inventors of the Chicago blues sound,” explains Dave. “And then in the late 40’s until his death, he was the guy that brought blues and American folk music to Europe. He was the first guy to go over there and blaze the trail.”
That the Alvin brothers feel such a kinship with a trailblazer like Broonzy is little surprise. The Blasters emerged to international fame in the early 1980’s, blending American roots and blues with searing punk energy, to critical acclaim. In 1986 Dave left to pursue a solo career and quickly emerged as one of Americana’s greatest songwriters. Once inspiration struck for the Big Bill Broonzy project, Phil was onboard and ready to head into the studio for their first album together in three decades. “We used this old Foley studio from the ’30s,” says Dave. “We set up all in that one little room a la Sun or Chess and just recorded.” Rather than trying to recreate Broonzy’s guitar parts and vocals note for note, the project honors the bluesman’s innovative spirit and musical adventurousness, blending chords and melodies and incorporating stylistic nods to guitarists like Magic Sam and Bo Diddley, whose work bears Big Bill’s unmistakable fingerprint. That encyclopedic knowledge of American music, coupled with the expansive musical vocabulary and fluency with which the Alvins slip in out and of genres and eras, is what makes Common Ground such a triumph.
The Far West will open the show.
The Far West 7:30-8:10, Dave & Phil 8:20-9:45.
$25 advance, $29 door General Admission. Or $49 (first 3 rows). 800-838-3006
James A. Little Theater, 1060 Cerrillos Rd. (at NM School for the Deaf).
Presented in partnership with our good friends at Santa Fe Performance Exchange.