COUNTY FAIR 2000
Retro World ★★★★★
Phil has a blast going solo
With Phil Alvin and brother Dave reunited fortheirCOMMON GROUNDalbum celebration of Big Bill Broonzy (which is in with a good chance of a Grammy) there’s no better time to re-release this startlingly original – and, at times, quite bizarre – solo album.
Curiously, with all the recordings that the Alvins’ madeasthe Blasters,this is probably closest in feel to the Broonzy set.
Recorded in 1994, it sets out to have the raucous good time feel of a county fair, and it’s one of few albums anywhere to feature tap dancing, from the 80-year-old Hollywood star Fayard Nicholas, on the New Orleans-style romp Low Down Rhythm.
Alvin is rather like a ringmaster, the leader of a travelling show, surrounded by a wild-eyed crew of entertainers. There are superb rockabilly-Americana tunes that feature that Blasters – the only, I believe, recordings from a time when sublime Californian guitaristsingersongwriter James Intveld was in the band – but much more.
Alvin duets with blues veteran Billy Boy Arnold on the wonderful Wreck Your V8 Ford, the Dirty Dozen Brass band are everywhere, and Intveld duets, with his Elvis-like purr, on Turning Blues Into Gold.
There’s more good humoured anarchy than at a snake oil salesmen’s convention and a musical melee that could providethe soundtracktoa Johnny Depp movie as written by Neil Gaiman. Artists come and go in the manner of Victorian music hall, and early 20th century American music styles have a party, with Alvin in the middle.
grinning madly. An unsung masterpiece. Nick Dalton