The Blasters’ debut album was released on Ron Weiser’s small Californian label Rollin’ Rock Records and limited to 2000 copies only. It is very rare to find copies in the UK, so I couldn’t believe my luck when I obtained one for just £5.!
Formed in Downey, California by brothers Dave and Phil Alvin, The Blasters drew inspiration primarily from blues, but their sound also incorporated elements of country, rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll. They gigged regularly on the Californian alternative circuit alongside such diverse contemporaries as X, Black Flag, Gun Club and Dwight Yoakam becoming renowned and popular for their storming live performances.
‘American Music’ contains 13 tracks of raw, energetic music, but with some clear indications of the more polished outfit that they would later become. The title track ‘American Music’ and ‘Marie Marie’ , both written by Dave Alvin would remain as foundation stones of their live set for years to come. Altogether Dave Alvin wrote five of the songs on the album and also co-wrote another with brother Phil who also chips in with one of his own compositions. The rest of the album is made up of six cover versions ranging from Bill Haley’s ‘Real Rock Drive’ to Jimmie Rodgers’ ‘Never No Mo’ Blues’.
The Blasters went on to make many more great recordings but none had quite the raw energy of their debut album. Dave Alvin left in 1985 taking on a brief stint with X before embarking on a wonderfully productive solo career. The Blasters carried on without him led by brother Phil.
‘American Music’ remained unavailable for many years, although with their growing popularity, a low key European re-issue did appear in the late 80s. It isn’t clear if this was an official release or a bootleg. It has a slightly different cover, no matrix numbers and both labels are blue, where the original release has a red label on one side and blue on the other (see pictures). Other than this, it wasn’t until 1997 when the record was made widely available following a re-mastered re-issue on the Hightone label. This version contained an additional six bonus tracks of recordings made at the same time as the original album and was issued as both a CD and as a double vinyl LP.
The original album is extremely rare, with an average Discogs price of £65, rising to £80-£100 for a really good copy. The late ’80s European copy/re-issue also goes for similarly high prices. The Hightone 1997 vinyl re-issue fetches around £40 whilst the CD version goes for a more manageable £5 or so.