Songwriter and guitarist Dave Alvin was the heart of the Blasters, one of America's greatest roots rock bands, but his brother, vocalist Phil Alvin, was the soul of the group, and anyone who wants a crash course on the importance of Phil's contribution to that fine band ought to check out his first solo album, Un "Sung Stories". Here, Phil tackles ten vintage blues, jazz, and gospel tunes, sometimes accompanied a small combo (or just Phil's rudimentary guitar), while on other cuts Alvin is joined by Sun Ra and his Arkestra and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, each of whom swing up a storm in their own truly individual ways. While the sound and approach of this set is a far cry from the Blasters potent take on America's musical history, Alvin's vocals ring out with a palpable joy, and he makes these musical museum pieces live and breathe like they were written last week; this album truly carries the spirit of the Blasters' wide-spectrum approach to American music into a very different direction. And while Phil may not have his brother's songwriting chops, you can't say that a man who would ask Sun Ra to arrange "The Old Man of the Mountain" and "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime" and then have the courage to take the lead vocal on the same is lacking in the way of a unique personal vision. Short and sweet, Un "Sung Stories" is a true gem that's richly felt in a way a collection of "old standards" is not expected to be. Now would someone be so kind as to reissue this on CD?
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming