The possibilities of Phil Alvin as a solo act have turned out to be greater than one might have suspected back when he was the tortured, mannered lead voice of the Blasters. Since parting company with that band and with his guitarist/songwriter brother Dave, Phil has undertaken one of the decade’s more fascinating explorations of endangered American song forms. You can listen to Alvin’s excellent Un”Sung Stories,” an LP that for my money equals anything the Blasters ever did: accompanied by the Sun Ra Arkestra and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, among others, Alvin ambles surefootedly through a musician’s gallery of Americana, calling our attention to songs like “Someone Stole Gabriel’s Horn” and “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime.” To say Alvin brings these museum pieces to life would be an understatement; he voraciously devours them whole–stem, pits, and all–and re-creates them as resonant explosions of joy and pain. Alvin won’t be working with a band at this gig, but that may be fortunate; a couple of years ago I saw him pull off a solo set, armed only with a Gibson hollow-body guitar. He was mesmerizing. Tonight, 11 PM, Cabaret Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 549-0203.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Gary Leonard.