Dave & Phil Alvin and The Guilty Ones @ The Basement

When the Bluesfest acts (and therefore, most importantly for me, Bluesfest sideshows in Sydney acts) were announced, one stood right out as my must-see: Dave and Phil Alvin (with The Guilty Ones).    They did not disappoint.


Phil has the horizonless, slightly tart classic blues shouter voice and Dave the songwriting and lead guitar, which you think would make them perfectly suited to each other musically but as we know that has not been the case – those circumstances are exhaustively chronicled elsewhere but even if you didn’t know the history the fact that last year’s Common Ground was their first collaboration in 30 years would be a clue.  On stage though only the positive aspects of their contending talents were evident, as they slickly worked their way through Big Bill Broonzy, Big Joe Turner and other blues titans plus tracks from The Blasters era and some from Dave’s solo catalog.  An intoxicating stew of what they would probably simply call American Music – blues, folk, country, rock …  (By the way, is there anyone more effortlessly sexier still alive and on stage than Dave Alvin? Flop Eared Mule says NO.)

Dave’s last solo record Eleven Eleven is one of my very favourite albums of the last decade.  It’s just such a perfectly realised example of everything that it wants to be.  They did do two tracks from it – “What’s Up With Your Brother?”, the moral of which is blood is always thicker than water and the epic “Johnny Ace is Dead”, the moral of which is always do what Big Mama Thornton tells you to do.

You know any band either of them will use will be killer, and so it was.  Special shout out to drummer Lisa Pankratz though.  She also seemed pretty happy with the kit the Basement set up for her, which is always nice to see.



Blasters tracks featured heavily in the shouted out requests, and why not when that means I get to hear one of my favourite songs “Border Radio” …  (this one is last week in NZ)

Big Bill Broonzy was the inspiration for this reunion so one more video of one of his best known tracks.

A terrific night, but not enough.  I wanted more and I definitely want Dave to come back soon and work through his solo catalog.

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