While the Blasters called it quits in 1986 after Hard Line failed to break through to the mass audience, it was only a few years later that lead singer Phil Alvin brought the band back, though without the participation of his kid brother, Dave Alvin, who played guitar with the Blasters and wrote their most memorable songs. For years, Phil Alvin promised to take the Blasters back to the studio, and in 2004 a new Blasters album finally appeared, 4-11-44. One spin confirms that this edition of the band can play up a storm, and that Phil's passionate roadhouse vocals are as exciting as they've ever been; Keith Wyatt is, if anything, a stronger picker than Dave Alvin, the rhythm section cooks with gas, and the results will get the party started with soul fire and real rock drive. But if you're a fan of the Blasters, it's hard to not feel as if something is missing on 4-11-44. When the Blasters started out, they were practically the only game in town for this sort of charged-up blues and retro-rock wailing; these days, there are a number of worthwhile bands flying the flag for this sort of music, and while the Blasters are still better than most of them, the guys on 4-11-44 don't sound as special as the band that cut American Music or The Blasters. There was an almost ministerial fervor to the group's original recordings, as if they needed to wake up an audience to a musical tradition that was on the verge of dying out; 4-11-44, on the other hand, sounds like a great roadhouse band rocking on out, but there isn't nearly as much force behind it. It doesn't help that the set list isn't nearly as interesting as the Blasters' previous albums; while there are two new Phil Alvin originals, including the great title song, the truth is he can't write with the same impact as his brother, and while the covers are all great songs, they don't have the same resonance as the classic obscurities the old band made its bread and butter. 4-11-44 is a good album, and it does nothing to tarnish the Blasters' name, but it just doesn't bear the same weight and move with the same fervor as the original band's catalog, and in this case these small details really do make all the difference.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming