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The Blasters

Trouble Bound – 2002 (HighTone)

Reviewed by Jon Johnson

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CDs by The Blasters

The past 15 years have been good ones for Dave Alvin. Unfortunately for his old band, The Blasters, they never quite seemed to recover from his abrupt 1985 departure from the group. New recordings have never materialized, the old ones went out of print, and the band has rarely ventured outside of California to perform.

Which makes this album all the more special. Culled from the original group's reunion performances in Los Angeles earlier this year, this finds The Blasters sounding much as they did 20 years ago, based on the evidence of their only other live record, 1982's "Over There." Better, perhaps, fueled this time out by an extra 20 years of experience, a hometown crowd and sheer nerve.

"Trouble Bound" manages to squeeze in most of the fan favorites - "Marie Marie," "Long White Cadillac," "American Music," "Red Rose" and a number of others - along with a few rarities, including "Common Man," which the band rarely performed when it was first released. Both of the band's numbers from the "Streets of Fire" soundtrack ("Blue Shadows" and Leiber & Stoller's "One Bad Stud") also turn up, as do three obscure covers, which were staples of the band's live sets in the '80s. Far and away the best of these is Sonny Burgess' "Sadie's Back in Town," on which Phil and Dave Alvin sound like they're possessed by whatever bourbon-soaked old god was lurking underneath the tiles at Sun Studios in the mid-'50s.

Get a roomful of your rockabilly hipster friends together in a room with some beer, sit them down, and have them listen good and hard. This is how it's supposed to be done and usually isn't. Live album of the year - no others need apply.