Alvin grew up in Downey, California in a music-loving family where he and his younger brother Dave Alvin were exposed to blues, rockabilly, and country. Inspired and influenced by the music they grew up with, Phil and Dave formed the rock and roll band The Blasters in the late 1970s with fellow Downey residents Bill Bateman and John Bazz. The group released four studio albums between 1980 and 1985. While never achieving mass market success on the music charts, the group’s recordings and concerts drew critical acclaim and a cult following across the United States and Europe.
In 1986, after The Blasters had disbanded, Alvin released a solo album, Un “Sung” Stories. He then returned to graduate school at California State University, Long Beach, where eventually earned a master’s degree in mathematics and artificial intelligence. Incidentally, before launching his music career, Alvin had taught mathematics at the same university.
When The Blasters reconvened in the late 1980s without Dave Alvin, who was pursuing a solo career and other projects, Phil resumed his role as the band’s lead vocalist, rhythm guitarist, and harmonica player. In 1994, he released a second solo album, County Fair 2000. In 2005, under Alvin’s leadership, a revised configuration of The Blasters released 4-11-44, the first studio album from the group since 1985. The band followed that effort in 2012 with the studio album, Fun On Saturday Night.
In 2014, Phil and Dave Alvin released the album Common Ground, a selection of Big Bill Broonzy covers, as a duo. It was the first studio collaboration by the Alvin brothers since the mid 1980s.
“Lost time is not found again.” This ancient idiom is at the heart of brothers 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. Listen to lead track “World’s In A Bad Condition” now via the Wall Street Journal.
Over ‘Lost Time’s’ twelve tracks, Dave and Phil pay homage to a number of artists and songs that had an early, formative influence, in Dave’s words “the masters of the Blues, the most transcendental form of American music.” 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 Alvins met Big Joe as teenagers, and he would mentor them for the remainder of his life. They remain his humble students, and cut four Turner 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 a crack band including Lisa Pankratz (drums), Brad Fordham (bass), and Chris Miller (guitar).
The Alvin brothers founded seminal early LA punk roots band The Blasters in 1979, and after Dave left the group in 1986, they did not record an album together again until ‘Common Ground.’ In addition to its Grammy nomination, that record earned wide critical acclaim, and features with NPR’s Fresh Air, The LA Times, Wall Street Journal and more.
‘Lost Time’ is available for pre-order now from Yep Roc Records.
Dave and Phil will tour extensively behind ‘Lost Time’ with Dave’s band The Guilty Ones. Check Dave’s website for updates.
The Blasters discography
- American Music (1980)
- The Blasters (1981)
- Over There (1982)
- Non Fiction (1983)
- Hard Line (1985)
- The Blasters Collection (1990)
- Testament: The Complete Slash Recordings (2002)
- The Blasters Live – Going Home (2004)
- 4-11-44 (2005)
- Fun On Saturday Night (2012)
The Blasters videography
- Streets of Fire (1984)
- The Blasters Live-Going Home (2004)
Phil Alvin discography
- Un “Sung” Stories (1986)
- County Fair 2000 (1994)
- Common Ground: Dave & Phil Alvin Play and Sing the Songs of Big Bill Broonzy (with Dave Alvin) (2014)