Album Reviews

Music You Don't Know You Like Yet




Dave Alvin’s incendiary guitar work has ignited the work of the Blasters, X and the Knitters as well as his own releases with the Guilty Men and, more recently, the Guilty Women. His fearless use of dynamics, taking songs from a whisper to a roar, and his deep knowledge of blues, country, soul, folk and rock places him in the top ranks or roots music guitarists of all time. And that’s just the start of why he’s so good. Even more compelling than his guitar work is his uncanny ability to craft tales of broken souls, lustful lovers, lost warriors, wistful dreamers, hard working common men and assorted dangerous characters that connect in a way that makes the songs linger long after the last notes fade away. While he sings with a big bold voice that matches his ringing guitar, he can also be quietly affectionate and tender when necessary in service of the tale. On his best songs you are there with him checking the perimeter for danger, examining why she left or reliving the sweet memory of a perfect night. This disc continues Alvin’s nearly flawless run of releases since leaving the Blasters. "Harlan County Line" finds Alvin wondering what happened to an old lover while the duet with Christy McWilson, "Manzanita" features the two of them tugged back into the spring of their long expired relationship and the hope the wild canyons once fostered for the two of them. "Dirty Nightgown" leaves sentiment aside with its scorching guitar and promise of a lust filled night. "Johnny Ace" is the real life tale of the R & B star that accidently killed himself fooling around with a gun during a break while on tour with Big Mama Thornton. While Ace’s death was tragic, far sadder is the lost soul on the tender "Black Rose of Texas" where the pills, booze and good times ultimately couldn’t keep the demons at bay. "Murrietta’s Head" is the tale of a good family man turned bounty hunter to support his family after losing a son for the lack of money to pay for a Doctor. The hilarious "What’s Up with Your Brother?" is the first recorded vocal duet by Alvin and his brother Phil, lead singer of the Blasters, who have great fun with their off again/on again relationship and the public’s constant inquiry about their status. The homage to his best friend and former Guilty Man, Chris Gaffney, "Run Conejo Run" is a John Lee Hooker style boogie that allows Alvin to finally give voice to his feelings of loss at the death of his friend who he knows is still by his side. Gaffney returns the favor with a duet recorded shortly before his death and helps Alvin close out this disc on a high note with a look at their good fortune in making a living as ramblers and musicians, "Two Lucky Bums". Tough, tender and absolutely rocking, this is a great disc. Smitty

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Compiled by the WYCE Journalism Club

The opinions expressed in these reviews are those of the individual volunteers that submitted the article and do not necessarily reflect the views of WYCE or GRCMC; nor its staff, donors, or affiliates.