Dan Cressey reflects on 'County Fair 2000', Blasters' front man Phil Alvin's 1994 second solo album, which, recently reissued, finds him moving away from rock and roll and experimenting with jazz and blues
Phil Alvin is best known for bringing the world the Blasters - a gloriously no-nonsense rock and roll band. On this re-release he shows an appreciation of other aspects of American music with a strong dose of blues and jazz toning down the swinging rockabilly noise.
It is hard to imagine a regular rocker throwing in the big band style ‘What’s the Reason I’m Not Pleasin’ You’, as Alvin does here, much less blending Sun Ra’s ‘Ankh’ with trad. arr. tune ‘Didn’t He Ramble’, as seen on this album’s closing track. Meanwhile ‘Keep In Touch’ channels Alvin’s normally bluesy holler into a country ballad. Perhaps even more surprisingly this collection of disparate Americana influences hangs together as a project and Alvin pulls together the guesting blues man, a brass section, a jazz band and his old friends the Blasters into a cohesive album.
This is an easy going ride that may not be going anywhere in particular, but it has an unexpected depth to it. With the point of reissues in a internet age seeming mainly to be milking a dedicated fan base with the excuse of an extra track of dubious quality and new cover design, this stands out as a rare exception. 'Country Fair 2000' is two decades old. It more than stands the test of time.