The Blasters surprised a few people who listened to their “roots rock with a slice of New Orleans” sound on the Slash record label. Although the band were at times lumped in with the California “punk” scene that spawned X, the band couldn’t have been further from that if they tried. Instead they wrote catchy, populist numbers that became hallmarks of American rock, circa the 1980s — “Marie Marie,” “Red Rose,” “Border Radio,” and the phenomenal “Long White Cadillac.” Built around the songs and guitar of Dave Alvin, and sung by his brother Phil, a live Blasters show was a sweat-inducing riot of sound. Although the band plugged away as hard as anyone during those days, they never really made it to the top, but the converted have remained loyal in the years since, supporting a healthy Dave Alvin solo career and a “Blasters Version 2” headed by Phil.
The release of a career retrospective set put the notion into a few heads that now would be a good time for a reunion of the original band (except for saxophonist Lee Allen, who passed away a few years ago, and to whom the tour and record are dedicated), and while the Alvin brothers have at times kept the rock and roll standard of battling brothers a la The Kinks or Oasis, they kept it together to perform five shows, and Trouble Bound documents the House of Blues show from Los Angeles in March. Any fears of a rushed, “for the money” boomer cash grab quickly dissipate with the first chords of “Red Rose.” The band sounds as tight and energetic as they ever did, and so what if Phil’s voice has lost a touch of its richness from the old days? The Blasters, when they hit a groove, such as on “I’m Shakin'” or a blazing version of “I Wish You Would,” give lessons in cohesive interplay and musical dynamics. The original band — the Alvins with John Bazz on bass, Bill Bateman on drums, and the wonderful Gene Taylor on keyboards — sounds as if they haven’t lost a step in their time away, and don’t seem to have needed much rehearsal to recapture the magic. The songs stand as classics, and are cast in a more bluesy style than before, which only adds depth to the material. Songs such as “So Long Baby Goodbye” still raise a sweat, and rarely heard numbers such as the topical (again) “Common Man” are treats. In an age where seemingly every band of the last 30 years have dusted off the guitars and headed for a possible payday, The Blasters show that in their case, its money well earned.
Hightone Records: http://www.hightone.com