Formed on the cusp of the 80s by brothers Phil and Dave Alvin, the Blasters played a major role in turning punk rockers and other underground musicians on to American roots music. Dave, the primary songwriter, left the band following 1985's Hard Line, but the Blasters continued to perform live, with a string of replacement guitarists including X's Billy Zoom and future Beck sideman Smokey Hormel. This year Dave, pianist Gene Taylor, and drummer Bill Bateman rejoined Phil and original bassist John Bazz for what's billed as a one-off reunion tour--and as documented on the recent live CD, Trouble Bound (Hightone), they haven't missed a beat. Bateman's percussion remains as versatile as it is propulsive: on fast shuffles and boogies, his cymbal ticks like a bored kid's pencil on a study hall desk; on Crescent City rumba rock like "Hollywood Bed," he piles subtle polyrhythms atop an off-center second-line strut. Out front Phil playfully affects the adolescent gulp of vintage rockabilly, but he can also sustain his phrases with the mature stamina of classic R & B. Dave's guitar leads are raw yet elegant: whether launching in jigsaw patterns up through the octaves or drilling a single line through the middle of a melody, his solos complement, rather than overpower, the songs. Unlike many roots rockers, the Blasters seldom explore the dark side of the culture from which the music sprang. But when they do so, the effects are riveting: Phil's voice quivers with terror on "Dark Night," a nightmarish tale of violence and small-town hatred, before it breaks into an outraged scream echoed by the shriek of Dave's guitar. Wednesday and Thursday, November 6 and 7, 8:30 PM, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn; 708-788-2118.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Lori Eanes.