I can’t remember how I was turned onto the music of Dave Alvin. I liked the rockabilly and catchy music of the Blasters, the band he and and his brother Phil founded while growing up in the eastern Los Angeles community of Downey. I never saw nor bought any of the roots music recorded by the Knitters, an ambitious alt country/folk project Alvin participated with John Doe, Xene and others from the LA punk band “X”.
Dave Alvin performing with the Gene Taylor Blues Band at Casbah in San Diego in December 2010.
But all this doesn’t matter. It’s Alvin’s solo career that has captured my attention and turned me into admirer. Not only for his excellent songwriting prowess, but his fine guitar work. At once driving and rocking, and at other times grooving and contemplated, Alvin commands the electric and acoustic six-string instruments like anyone comfortable in their space. A few years back I saw him play a very intimate venue called Acoustic San Diego and have a few videos posted on YouTube from that show.
This past winter I connected with Dave and saw him play the stale beer reeking downtown grunge bar The Casbah in San Diego. Packed into a tiny space that offers about 100 or so fans standing room views of local bands in an intimate if not claustrophobic space. Dave joined with ex-bandmate Gene Taylor, for a series of shows in California in December and January.
But what truly brings me to this music-reflecting post is the release of Alvin’s latest solo album, Eleven Eleven. According to Alvin’s liner notes on the CD (yes, I actually purchased the physical CD) he named the disk largely due to his brief contemplation of numerology. That is, this is Alvin’s 11th solo release, the disk was released in 2011 and there are 11 songs on the disk. Perhaps most interesting, Dave Alvin was born on November 11th. Though this makes me wonder why he didn’t wait to release the album on his birthday this year: 11/11/11. Ahhhh, but this disk is titled: Eleven Eleven.
Moving from the Americana folk-inispired releases of West of the West, King of California and his 2009 disk Dave Alvin & The Guilty Women , Eleven Eleven is a rocking driving and blues-inspired journey into Alvin’s life on the road. From the saucy blues guitar licks of Harlan County to the feedback intro and rhythmic Bo Diddley-esque pounding of percussion that forms the bed for Alvin’s deep resonating vocals and classic story telling on Run Conejo Run, Eleven Eleven doesn’t fail to inspire or satisfy. Sure he pulls back for a few acoustical diversions with Manzanita and No Worries Mija with its heart-felt and whimpering accordion and pedal steel guitar, but the spirit of this release is the driving energy that once help define the Blasters. And for the sake of Nostalgia, Alvin recruits brother Phil to join him on the aptly titled What’s Up With Your Brother.
If you haven’t heard of Dave Alvin or checked into his music lately, take a moment and check out his music. I’m sure there’s something there to satisfy most musical tastes. And if he happens to roll into your area and you have a chance to see him at a dive bar or small venue, you should take advantage of the opportunity to see a true professional whose passion and commitment to his art and craft is evident in every minute of the more than two-hour sweat-building performance he’ll deliver. Maybe I’ll see you there!
If you’re a Bob Dylan fan you’ll be blown away by his version of Highway 61 Revisited, the cut he chose to record for the Uncut Presents Highway 61 Revisited – Revisited songs of Bob Dylan. Check it out.