Till now, The Blasters had only cut one studio album since co-founder Dave Alvin went solo more than 25 years ago. But Dave’s brother, Phil, has kept the group together all along, performing Dave’s songs live, as well as the original rockabilly, blues, and folk songs that inspired the Alvin brothers to begin with. The Blasters’ second post-Dave release, Fun on a Saturday Night, is mainly made up of inspired covers of classic soul, doo-wop and jump blues tunes, performed by singer Phil Alvin; original Blasters Bill Bateman (drums) and John Bazz (bass); and new guitarist Keith Wyatt. This performing act makes a powerful, joyful noise on tracks like “Well Oh Well,” “Rock My Blues Away,” and “Jackson” (a duet with X vocalist Exene Cervenka). They even own their version of James Brown’s signature “Please Please Please,” and of course this is all down to Phil Alvin’s magnificent, effortless vocal instrument.
Phil’s bandmates can play the heck out of anything, and knowing each other as well as they do, they’re perfectly fluid together, but their appeal on this record is all about Phil: his throaty, soulful pleading on “Love Me With a Feeling,” and “I Don’t Want Cha”; his command as a storyteller on “The Yodeling Mountaineer”; his gentle crooning of a Spanish translation of his brother’s “Marie Marie” (sung as “Maria Maria”). The Blasters with both Alvin brothers were an amazing band and an essential element in L.A.’s 1980s roots punk scene. But maybe it takes even more courage today to put this much heart, soul and talent into old-school rock ‘n’ roll, and not surprisingly, it still sounds amazing.
Producers: Phil Alvin, Scott Abeyta. Recording engineer: Glenn Nishida. Mixing, mastering: Abeyta. Recording studio: Pacifica Studios, West L.A. Mixing studio: Rip Cat Studio.