Blasters Report from Keith Wyatt

We have been rehearsing weekly and played a good show on 7/1 at the
Bourbon Room in Hollywood. It was a good turnout and the fans were very
enthusiastic. We played for a little over an hour and Phil was fatigued but still standing at the end. We're taking things slow. Next up is a show in Santa
Barbara at the Lobero Theater on August 6 with Dave Alvin joining us. We'll get
together a couple of weeks beforehand to rehearse a set.
In other news I've recorded ten original instrumental tracks with John Bazz and Bill Batemen for use in my Truefire online guitar instructional videos. The songs aren't Blaster songs, but some are Blaster adjacent.

The Dave Alvin 2022 Interview

By Billy davis

     Throughout the 2020-2021 pandemic, as we were all trying to adapt to a new way of living, Dave Alvin was going through a major health crisis. He kept it a secret from all but his closest friends and family. We didn't notice because everyone was in lockdown. Dave Alvin later joked that if he had to choose when to have cancer, that was the time, when no one could go on tour anyway.

     Dave Alvin only recently admitted that he was diagnosed with cancer in January of 2020. We were all shocked because Dave Alvin was always busy recording, going on tour, traveling the world, doing interviews, and not resting for a second. He was the Energizer Bunny. How could this happen?

     In April 2022 he revealed in an interview with Rolling Stone that he had undergone successful treatment for stage four colorectal cancer in an article titled '
I Should Have Died': Dave Alvin, Seminal California Country-Punk Guitarist, Talks Private Cancer Battle." In those two years he was diagnosed with three separate cancers, was hospitalized for several surgeries, underwent months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. He is now cancer free and willing to talk about it. His first full performance post-cancer was at McCabe's in Santa Monica on May 8, 2022.

here talking to you right now. If I could play gigs, it would all be better - that's how I balance my life. With these upcoming gigs in June and July [2022 with Jimmie Dale and the Guilty Ones], every note whether right or wrong will be amazing to me. It's just great being able to play these songs again. The last show we all played together was in Chicago at Fitzgerald's in January 2020 just before I went in the hospital. We played almost three hours because it was Bill Fitzgerald's farewell for selling the club. We did 30 DOLLAR ROOM and MUSEUM OF HEART. So, this tour is gonna be fun. Everyday, just look at those flowers. Damn! It's all gravy and frosting.

The Dave Alvin 2022 Interview

Part 2 [July 2022]

told Glide magazine.  "Dave reminds us all how fleeting life is as he
laments the passing of a friend with whom a song they promised to write together never came to be," she added.
     As a performer, Olson and Stephen McCarthy start and finish
Americana Railroad with a pair of songs. HERE COMES THE TRAIN AGAIN, a McCarthy-penned song, is a vibrant opener while I REMEMBER THE RAILROAD revisits the Gene Clark original from his 1973 Roadmaster album.
     Other songs on the album feature contributions from occasional collaborators with Dave. James Intveld sings a soulful version of MYSTERY TRAIN, one of Elvis Presley's singles on Sun Records. James also plays lead guitar on a rockabilly rendition of the same song by Rocky Burnette. Peter Case's exuberant version of the traditional THIS TRAIN has echoes of Woody Guthrie.
     As trains travel across a wide variety of landscapes, the performances on
Americana Railroad span the musical spectrum.  Gary Myrick injects a surf-rock feel to TRAIN KEPT' A-ROLLIN while John Fogerty turns Steve Goodman's CITY OF NEW ORLEANS into a family affair with the help of two sons and his youngest daughter on guitar, bass, and vocals. Paul Birch evokes the spirit of Jimmie Rodgers on WAITIN' FOR A TRAIN with Fats Kaplin on Dobro and Deborah Poppink brings out the gospel fervor of Curtis Mayfield's PEOPLE GET READY.   --Am

Bruce Bromberg: A Life in Music
By Tom Wilk

     As a songwriter, producer, and record company owner, Bruce Bromberg shaped the sound of a wide range of artists, including Lightnin' Hopkins, Robert Cray, and Dave Alvin.
     Bromberg, who died at 80 on Dec. 27, 2021, made his biggest impact with HighTone Records, the California-based label he co-founded with Larry Sloven in 1983, which the two men ran until 2008. Sloven provided financing for the label with $25,000 he inherited from his grandfather.
     Although associated with the blues, HighTone's roster of artists spanned the spectrum of American music with new and archival releases by Cray, Dave Alvin, Phil Alvin, The Blasters, Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Katy Moffatt, Rosie Flores, Joe Louis Walker, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Chris Smither, Chris Gaffney and Tom
Russell among others.

Dave Alvin, Bruce Bromberg, and Larry Sloven

     "I don't think we ever thought of it as anything other than singer-songwriters," Bromberg recalled of his intentions for HighTone in a 2008 interview with Goldmine magazine. "We started as a blues label, which is what I did before HighTone," he noted. 
     In addition to Lightnin' Hopkins, Bromberg produced albums for Driftin' Slim, Phillip Walker, Lonesome Sundown, Tony Mathews, and Ted Hawkins on a variety of labels. "My taste was country and blues. We became involved with many singer-songwriters, Bromberg said. "I was closer to the blues people than the folksingers, with exception of the Austin acts, many of whom I worked with I was way into Joe Ely; he produced his own albums and the first Gilmore for us. I worked with the harder country people such as Heather Myles, Dale Watson, Ted Roddy, Lonesome Strangers, and Dallas Wayne."
     In an email interview, Sloven credited Bromberg's personality and musical curiosity with HighTone's success. "Bruce was known to almost everyone who met him as a supportive and friendly person.  There have been so many comments since his passing from artists we worked with together on how Bruce was so encouraging to them.  In part it was just the way he was in general," Sloven recalled.

     "In other part, it was that he so much loved good music of many different styles.  In addition to his work as a producer and songwriter, he had an extraordinary record collection.  He had the highest level collection of blues 78s.  He also had an immense collection of LPs and 45s which included deep archives of country, blues, jazz, reggae, gospel and cajun music.  He spent a lot of time listening to those records and it gave him a great foundation as a producer and songwriter," Sloven added.
     HighTone got off to a strong start with its initial release, the Robert Cray Band's album
Bad Influence featuring the song PHONE BOOTH. Produced by Bromberg and Dennis Walker, the album received airplay on Album-Oriented Radio, blues stations, and college radio.  "After quite a few years producing records, it was very exciting to have one get a lot attention and actually sell," Bromberg told writer Lee Hildebrand for the liner notes of American Music: The HighTone Records Story, a box set released in 2006.
     HighTone built on that foundation in 1986 with Cray's
Strong Persuader album, produced again by Bromberg and Walker. The LP sold more than a million copies and reached No. 13 on Billboard's Top 200 albums. SMOKING GUN, a single co-written by Bromberg under the alias David Amy, reached No. 22 on the singles charts.
     Sloven offered an analysis of Bromberg's production skills. "One of Bruce's strongest points as a producer, in my opinion, was that he acted as a conduit for the artists he worked with to achieve their best, not to mold them in his own image," he noted. "It was interesting to me to observe him working in the studio, gently guiding artists, not confronting or badgering.  He avoided confrontation and that worked to his advantage in getting results."
     In a 1993 interview with Mike Boehm of The Los Angeles Times, Dave Alvin spoke of working with Bromberg, who co-produced
Blue Blvd and Museum of Heart and co-wrote two songs with Dave on the latter album (THIRTY DOLLAR ROOM and DEVIL'S WIND).
     "Bruce has produced everyone from Lightning Hopkins to Robert Cray. He's done so many blues albums, he could say, 'I've heard that [solo] before; you can do better.' He was pushing me on
Blue Blvd and Museum of Heart to play more guitar, and he kind of got the performances out of me," Dave recalled. "It's not just [a matter of] practice and playing gigs. It's finding your own voice and not being afraid to try things."

     Bromberg and Sloven sold HighTone to Shout! Factory in 2008, ending a 25-year run for the friends and business partners.
     In 2016, Bromberg was honored as one of the premier producers of blues and roots music of the past 40 years with induction into the Blues Hall of Fame.
-AM
 

A Conversation with HighTone Records President Larry Sloven

    HighTone Records was a career highlight for label co-founders Bruce Bromberg and Larry Sloven and spotlighted the work of new and established artists. Between 1991 and 2002, HighTone released seven albums by Dave Alvin and two by the Blasters.  Larry discussed the record company and its history in an email interview with Tom Wilk.
Q: How did you and Bruce met?
A: Bruce was my close friend since 1975.  We met when I was working as a sales rep for Northern California independent distributor, Pacific Record and Tape.  We had acquired the distribution of the Tomato Records label, and Bruce was the West Coast sales and promo rep for Tomato (he had previously worked for California Record Distributors and RCA distribution).  Bruce also had his own little label, Joliet Records, that we picked up distribution for at the same time.
     The first time Bruce came to the Bay Area to visit us, my boss Mike Paikos assigned me to take him around to visit the key Bay Area accounts (Tower Records at Columbus and Bay in San Francisco, Record Factory, some one-stops).  When I played a cassette compilation of country and rockabilly tracks I had made as we drove around together, we immediately learned that we loved the same kind of music.  And in true Bruce fashion, he insisted that instead of going to see all the targeted accounts, instead we went to collector's store, Jack's Record Cellar, where we spent too much time and bought a bunch of country 45s.
Q: How did HighTone get its name?
A: The label was named HighTone as a result of a discussion between me, Bruce and Bruce's wife Terri on the beach in Santa Monica near the Santa Monica Pier.  Neither Bruce nor Terri remembered this in later years, but I did.  I believe Terri suggested the name, Bruce was not in favor of it at first, but I was.  To me, it suggested music made at a high level, and it also alluded to a somewhat outdated term that I identified with the Hank Williams song, "Move It on Over" (mindin' other people's business seems to be hightone).
Q: How many albums did HighTone put out in its 25-year history?

A: HighTone released approximately 300 albums.  Of those, roughly 40 were on our Testament label which we acquired and released both reissues and entire albums of never released material of Delta and Chicago blues.  We also issued two series of licensed material from Highwater (Memphis area blues recorded by musicologist David Evans) and Rollin' Rock (Ronnie Weiser's garage rockabilly recordings--our release of the Blasters' American Music album was separate from this reissue series).  We had three CDs on HighTone Latino--norteno music, and 14 dancehall reggae compilations on Outa!/HighTone, the work of reggae expert Charlie Morgan.  We also had a few releases that we produced that bore the HighTone logo on major labels. including Robert Cray on Mercury/HighTone and Chris Thomas on Sire/Warner/HighTone.
Q: What are your memories of how Dave Alvin became a HighTone artist?
A: The motivation to sign Dave Alvin came from me.  I was a fanatic Blasters fan--Bruce was only vaguely aware of them.  But Dave was a fan of Bruce's from his production work with Lightnin' Hopkins, Long Gone Miles, etc.  But those connections came together to a very long, happy and productive relationship amongst the three of us.
     After we had met with Dave and Shelly Heber to discuss signing him, Bruce and I went to see Dave sit in with Dave Gonzalez at a gig at the Belly Up in Solana Beach.  It struck me as crazy that Dave expressed nervousness at us being there--here was this guy that I thought was the ultimate rock and roll songwriter and guitarist and he's nervous that we were there.  In retrospect, I think it was a combination of Dave's humility and his reverence for Bruce's work.
-AM

Dave Alvin Remembers Bruce Bromberg

     I'd seen Bruce's name on blues reissues albums when I was a kid - albums by Elmore James, The Soulsters, and Howlin' Wolf. Then in the 1980s, I saw he was recording Robert Cray. When I finally met him I felt like I knew him all my life. We were really close and it's why I stayed on HighTone so long. I really loved Bruce. We cracked each other up. He would give me advice on my relationships and we'd get together and have a few beers - he was that kind of friend. A week before I won the Grammy, Bruce and I took a trip to Mississippi and Tennessee for a week visiting things like Charley Patton's grave, Sonny Boy Williamson's grave and his old apartment. With our connections, we found out where all these places were. We visited a lot of graves and I left a pick at each one. We saw a great blues show

in Helena, Arkansas.
     The last trip I took with Bruce was in 2015, when the Dave and Phil Big Bill Broonzy record was nominated for best traditional blues at the blues awards in Memphis. Bruce was already in the blues Hall of Fame, so we couldn't go without Bruce. But the Alzheimer's made it very difficult. It was hard to see him like that.
     He was very soulful and in our darkest times he was the guiding light. When I had my cancer, I couldn't even go out to say goodbye to him, but he was already gone a long time. I realized it when I called him one night in about 2018. He said: "You're a really nice guy, Dave. You should have been on HighTone
Records" 
--Am