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10 Reviews
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alvin's Stardust a real blast for Big Bill, 2 Jun 2014
By 
Mr. A. W. Riggs "bernard shakey" (Wallington, Surrey United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Common Ground (Audio CD)
Much like the recent Neil Young record 'Letter Home' Dave and Phil Alvin have reconvened to look back for this record dedicated to Big Bill Broonzy. But for me these records are worlds apart, whilst Neil sounds morbid and self-absorbed this record sounds fresh and full of great songs and the combo of Phil & Dave for me gets to the heart of Americana. Anyone wondering what we've been missing for the last 30 years needs to listen 'What's Up With Your Brother' from Dave Alvin's 11 11 record. This record succeeds where other tribute records fail as the music here is enhanced by the playing and singing not weighed down by history.
Buy this and all The Blasters and Dave Alvin records.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic country blues, beautifully sung and played., 25 Sep 2014
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This review is from: Common Ground: Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin Play and Sing the Songs of Big Bill Broonzy (MP3 Download)
Brothers Dave and Phil Alvin come together - leaving their differences behind (this is their first collaboration since 1985) - to sing and play their versions of songs written by blues legend Big Bill Broonzy. The Alvin brothers have contrasting but complementary voices and this collection of 12 covers are beautifully played and sung. They are at their best when Dave's superb guitar playing underlines Phil's gravelly vocals, but Dave joins in on the mike to provide some rousing duets. The clarity and simplicity here proves the old adage that less is more. The songs themselves may be unfamiliar to many listeners but Broonzy was a pioneer of the Delta blues and greatly influenced the British blues scene in the 1960s: Keith Richards, Ray Davies, Ronnie Wood, Eric Clapton and Pete Townshend have all remarked on his effect on their music. He was a fine song-writer. 'Uncut' magazine scored this album 9/10 and persuaded me to buy it, and I am not disappointed. It is a treat for those who can appreciate a new but respectful interpretation of traditional country blues music.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There comes a day, 7 Jun 2014
By 
H. Shimmin (Claremont, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Common Ground (Audio CD)
Writing about Big Bill Broonzy, long-time jazz critic Nat Hentoff observed, "The blues is about the way people live, the way they really live. The good times, the lost times, the hoping times, the times when you remember you're going to die, the times when everything is so right you want time to stop." In his autobiography "Big Bill Blues" Broonzy asked to be remembered, "as a well-known blues singer and player and has recorded 260 blues songs from 1925 up till 1952; he was a happy man when he was drunk and playing with women; he was liked by all the blues singers, some would get a little jealous sometimes but Bill would buy a bottle of whiskey and they all would start laughing and playing again. . . ." It should not have been so surprising to open "Common Ground", the latest effort by Dave and Phil Alvin, and discover that after more than 30 years in the same patch, they're ready to claim space among the standouts.

Taken as a whole this album is surprising on two accounts. First, many artists will present a contemporary audience with a personal interpretation of an older recording. Think Eric Clapton featuring the Broonzy song "Key to the Highway" while fronting Derek and the Dominos in 1970. Stretching the listeners' attention to a single song writer is much rarer; recall Maria Muldaur's gem "Sweet Lovin' Ol' Soul" where about half of the tunes chosen originated with Memphis Minnie. The decision to limit the song selection here to Bill Broonzy compositions posed a challenge to both the Alvin brothers and to their audience.

It may have helped that Broonzy himself showed exceptional imagination and range over his career, from accompanying himself on a solo guitar to adding elaborate piano accompaniments, drums, bass, and horns when the budget permitted. The Alvin brothers brighten the horizon by reaching into corners for old-time acoustic styles on the opener "All By Myself" and the instrumental closer "Saturday Night Rub." Gene Taylor's rich piano backing on half the tracks is as inventive as Joshua Altheimer's work behind Broonzy in the 1930s. By featuring Phil's harmonica and a piedmont style of guitar playing, their arrangement of "Key to the Highway" echoes the old Sonny Terry/Brownie McGhee chart. Phil's vocal on "How You Want It Done?" is matched by the same distinctive high-speed flatpicking pattern that Big Bill used in 1932.

Their approach to the harrowing "Southern Flood Blues" could scarcely be more modern. Dave's searing opening riff and later solo, and Phil's vocals and harmonica work underscore the urgency when the singer is awakened by the Ohio River, "comin' in my door," followed by Dave's distinctive repeat, "telling us to get ready, telling us to get ready to go." Bob Glaub's roiling bass and Don Heffington's drums and percussion underscore the peril. This is not a three chord country blues with the bass player marking the progression. The rockabilly and alt-country styles familiar from the Blasters sessions and their individual work since are still recognizable, but the Alvin brothers have now claimed space within a contemporary blues world.

A second mark of the artistry here develops from the song selection. This is not a golden hits collection from long ago. It's the Alvin brothers at their best, telling you about, "the good times, the lost times, the hoping times, the times when you remember you're going to die." Phil's masterful tenor voice, Dave's deep baritone, and the clear, original instrumental solos make these tracks live in the 21st century. The ability to surprise an audience familiar with their own careers or with pre-war blues records is truly an accomplishment. It's a joy to roll through on such a delightful excursion.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Too Good To Fail, 3 Jun 2014
By 
Angel Delta (Southsea Hants) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Common Ground (Audio CD)
As lead singer with The Blasters, blessed with a big voice well suited to the blues and a virtuoso on harmonica, it is surprising that Phil Alvin, unlike brother Dave, has released just two solo albums over the past thirty years. But now, on this first collaboration with Dave since 1985 he brings that fabulous bluesy voice right back onto centre stage as the brothers play tribute to Big Bill Broonzy.

Together with Dave's sublime acoustic, electric and National Steel guitars, this is a reminder of not just how good the Alvin brothers are together but just how good Broonzy's songs are too. Highlights include his best known number, "Key To The Highway" with Phil and Dave taking turns at the mike, "Just A Dream", a wonderful swamp blues and "Stuff They Call Money" a piano, bass and drums infused country blues.

But, in truth, there isn't a bad cut on the album and how could there be? With Big Bill's peerless songs, the Alvins at their imposing best and a band that is always compelling but never intrusive, this is an album that it is too good to fail. This is not just another iteration of The Blasters but another celebration of Americana performed with passion and pride.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Blasters in all but name, Big Bill Broonzy is their game, 16 Nov 2014
By 
Sid Griffin (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Common Ground (Audio CD)
Heroic stuff from two brothers who proved blood is indeed thicker than the lager backstage at their concert. Yes, these are the Alvin brothers from the Blasters, a band with so much to say everyone from Lee Allen to the Go-Go's to Bumps Blackwell to me to Bob Dylan loved them. The Blasters carry on with Phil at the helm while Dave does his solo thing but herein we have these two SoCal roots rockers reunited on a full studio album for the first time in almost thirty years.

The entire platter is made up of Big Bill Broonzy songs and as Louie Prima would have it they swing, swing, swing. All the holier than thou record collectors (like me) expect fine versions of Big Bill's killers such as All By Myself, I Feel So Good and Key To The Highway but dig the Alvin's take on Tomorrow, Stuff They Call Money and Southern Flood Blues...this latter is my fave on the album and must not be listened to in a darkened room or you will hurt yourself. Bad. Go buy this NOW!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Album., 4 Jun 2014
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This review is from: Common Ground (Audio CD)
Don't miss this one because it's an absolutely cracking album. Big Bill would be proud of these two Alvin lads.
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5.0 out of 5 stars What a great album. Its the first time ive heard these ..., 27 Sep 2014
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This review is from: Common Ground (Audio CD)
What a great album.Its the first time ive heard these guys and im very impressed.It has a very old time feel to it.I must hunt out some of there old stuff.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 4 Nov 2014
By 
Mr. A. R. Spicer "Big Al" (Bournemouth, Dorset) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Common Ground (Audio CD)
very good rootsy album
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 28 Oct 2014
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This review is from: Common Ground: Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin Play and Sing the Songs of Big Bill Broonzy (MP3 Download)
Fantastic musicians
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars the brothers come back, 11 Jun 2014
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This review is from: Common Ground (Audio CD)
Phil and David Alvin were in a band called the Blasters in the early eighties they split up when the brothers fell out, about two years ago they reunited on David's solo album 'Eleven Eleven' on the witty track' What's Up With Your Brother?'. This is the album they have chosen to make together due to a love of the music of Big Bill Broonzy and that love of his music comes through in the playing which is beautifully done. This is of course a Blues album so if you don't like that style then this is not an album for you, but if you do like the Blues this is well worth checking out.
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