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Blasters Redux

In the early '80s there was no hotter live band than the Blasters. Led by brothers Phil and Dave Alvin, the group performed some of the most memorable shows of Fitzgerald's pre-kid club era.

The good news is that the Blasters are returning to Houston. The bad news is that only two members of what was originally a seven-piece band remain in the current quartet incarnation. And only one of them is an Alvin.

At the band's peak, brother Dave wrote the songs, such as "Marie Marie," "Long White Cadillac" (later covered by Dwight Yoakam) and other hard-driving, hard-living, hard-loving tales featuring his chain-saw guitar licks -- tunes that, for my money, took rockabilly to a new place. Unfortunately, commercial radio didn't follow. So Dave went somewhere else; specifically to X, taking over lead guitar duties from the departed Billy Zoom.

At about the same time another Los Angeles band with a then-moderate-sized national audience -- Los Lobos -- finally took off commercially. Just like the Blasters, Los Lobos had struggled for years to get their music heard by a larger audience. (It's worth noting that Los Lobos saxophonist Steve Berlin was originally with the Blasters.) It's always been disturbing to me that the Blasters never achieved that sort of success, and I've often wondered if they might have if Dave had stuck it out a little longer. After X, Dave launched his own solo career.

But don't worry, darling, it'll be all right, because Phil Alvin is still fronting this band. To me, Phil's rich, textured voice was and is every bit as important to the Blasters as Dave's guitar. Indeed, the combination grin/grimace that stretches across Phil's face between each line of a song like some weird, nervous tic is, as much as anything, the band's visual trademark.

After Dave's departure, Phil hired Hollywood Fats to replace him on lead. But when Fats died of a heart attack (they didn't call him Fats for nothing), the Blasters more or less disappeared, at least from these parts. Now, after a couple of solo albums (a la Dave), including last fall's uneven County Fair 2000, Phil, along with original bassist John Bazz, has the Blasters back on the road again. And as long as Phil Alvin is with them, it's hard to imagine the Blasters being anything but hot.

-- Steve McVicker

The Blasters play at 10:30 p.m., Friday, February 10 at the Fabulous Satellite Lounge. Tickets cost $12. Call 869-COOL for info.

Crit Picks

G. Love and Special Sauce -- I got all excited about this Philadelphia trio's raw-boned eponymous Epic debut, especially the "Baby's Got Sauce" single that spelled out the band's front-porch funk plan, but then Soul Coughing shoved in and did more or less the same thing a little better. Nonetheless, G. Love's brand of earthy scat remains underappreciated, and Hammell on Trial-- his stage-warmers on this date -- are no slouches either. At the Fabulous Satellite Lounge, Thursday, February 9. (Brad Tyer)

Pat Metheny -- Somebody forgot to tell Pat Metheny guitars can't do that. Sound sweet, like a girl singer, and then growl like a bari sax. Metheny might not have listened anyway. This is a guy who plays what he hears in his head and hopes the rest of us can keep up. Metheny's new CD is called We Live Here and you get the feeling he means it. Seemingly unaware of record company execs who want jazz to sell first and sound good later, Metheny accomplishes both. At Cullen Performance Hall, Friday, February 10. (Olivia Torre)

Spinning Ginny -- Ginny is a Dallas-based four-piece with a woman singer who can really sing, but they sound next to nothing like Pervis. On the evidence of the band's ten-song debut CD Adam (Last Beat Records), Spinning Ginny's mining territory closer to the Bay Area's 4 Non Blondes, if you can remember what was initially so appealing about that band before it became clear how annoying its frontwoman actually was. Lots of strummed acoustic guitars that are more rock than folk and a vocalist with what sure sounds like the confidence to hold a stage. At Fitzgerald's, Friday, February 10. (B.T.)

Adrian Legg -- The British Legg, who looks as much like a literal egghead as any human ought, can set his Ovation acoustic spinning in an aural dance that'll leave you dizzy, not to mention wonder struck. Probably the foremost acoustic technician at work today, Legg has a penchant for waltzes and sentimental ballads, and on his latest -- High Strung Tall Tales (Relativity) -- he enlists the help of a backing band for the first time. For this show, though, it's just Legg, his guitar and a stool, which turned out to be plenty enough when I last saw him at the Bon Ton Room. At Rockefeller's, Sunday, February 12. (B.T.)

Oasis -- Yup, another British music tabloid flavor of the month trying to make a go of it in the States, not dissimilar to all the more-or-less interchangeable Brit invaders who flopped here before them. Clangorous guitar pop with a cute accent and a buzz clip. I listened to Definitely Maybe all the way through -- it sounds just fine as long as it's way too loud -- just to confirm that the band is quite stylishly empty. But musical quality isn't really the point. See, the fundamental difference between modern American and British rock lies in their respective aspirations. Every band in America wants to be Elvis, or at least Kurt Cobain (skewed geniuses who die into martyrdom), and all the young Brits wish they were the Beatles (brilliant smart-ass hedonists who conquer the world). The Brit ascent generally consists of one decent album, a horse-cart of hype and a spectacular fizzle, which you are hereby invited to watch. At Urban Art Bar, Monday, February 13. (B.T.)

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