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Dave Alvin

Dave Alvin helped to kick-start the American roots rock scene in the early '80s with the band the Blasters, and has since gone on to a career as a solo performer, songwriter, producer, and sideman that's been as well respected as it is eclectic. Born in Downey, California in 1955, Alvin was raised by a family of music fans, and as teenagers Dave and his older brother Phil immersed themselves in blues, rockabilly, and vintage country sounds, collecting rare records and attending nightclub performances by the likes of T-Bone Walker, Big Joe Turner, and Lee Allen. Like many fans, the Alvin brothers wanted to play music influenced by the sounds they loved, and in 1979 they formed the Blasters with fellow Downey residents Bill Bateman and John Bazz. Combining the revved-up energy of punk rock with an enthusiastic embrace of classic American sounds, the Blasters became a sensation in Los Angeles and won an enthusiastic cult following across the United States and Europe. However, the Blasters were unable to translate their critical respect and enthusiastic fan base into mainstream success, and in 1986 Dave left the band. Phil Alvin continued to front various lineups of the Blasters, and in 2002 Dave joined forces with Phil, Bill Bateman, and John Bazz for a short series of Blasters reunion shows.

While playing with the Blasters, Alvin had already displayed a broad range of enthusiasms with two side projects, Chris D.'s literate goth-punk collective the Flesh Eaters and the Knitters, an acoustic ensemble in which Alvin performed vintage country and folk numbers with John Doe and Exene Cervenka of X. Shortly after leaving the Blasters, Alvin joined X as lead guitarist after the departure of Billy Zoom; however, Alvin amicably left the group to work on a solo project shortly after the recording sessions for their album See How We Are. Alvin's first solo album, entitled Romeo's Escape in the United States and Every Night About This Time in England, added a purer country influence along with a larger side portion of the blues; while the album was critically well received, it didn't fare well in the marketplace, and Alvin was dropped by his American record label, Columbia. Alvin suffered health problems that sidelined him for a while, except for a wild tour with friends Mojo Nixon and Country Dick Montana as the Pleasure Barons, which was described as "a Las Vegas revue from acts who aren't going to be asked to play Vegas." (A live album was released of a second Pleasure Barons tour in 1993.)

In 1989, Dwight Yoakam scored a hit on the country charts with Alvin's song "Long White Cadillac," and Alvin used the royalties to start work on his second solo set, Blue Blvd. Released by the California-based roots-music label Hightone Records, Blue Blvd received enthusiastic reviews and sold well enough to reestablish Alvin as a significant artist in the roots rock scene. After releasing Museum of Heart in 1993, Alvin began to turn his attention to acoustic music with 1994's King of California, and over the next several years Alvin moved back and forth between hard-edged roots rock and more introspective acoustic material that still honored his influences (and allowed him to display a greater range as a vocalist). In 2000, Alvin recorded a collection of traditional folk and blues classics, Public Domain: Songs from the Wild Land, which earned him a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album. In 2004, Alvin signed with the upstart roots rock label Yep Roc Records, which released his album Ashgrove, a low-key but hard-edged set of blues and rock. It was followed in 2006 by West of the West and a year later by Live from Austin TX (a performance on Austin City Limits from 1999).

He changed his approach a bit with Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women, which was issued by Yep Roc in 2009, by recording with five women, and it seemed to revitalize him. Eleven Eleven, Alvin's first solo studio album of original material in some seven years, appeared in 2011, again on Yep Roc. Eleven Eleven included a duet with Phil Alvin on the tune "What's Up with Your Brother?," and in 2014 Dave and Phil recorded a full album together for the first time since Dave left the Blasters; Common Ground: Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin Play and Sing the Songs of Big Bill Broonzy was a celebration of one of their first and strongest musical influences that found them both in strong form. The Alvin brothers supported Common Ground with a concert tour, and in 2015 Dave and Phil returned with a lively set of electric blues, Lost Time.

When not busy recording his own music, Alvin has also worked as a producer for several other roots-oriented acts, including Tom Russell, the Derailers, and Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys, and he has collaborated with rockabilly legend Sonny Burgess. As a sideman, Alvin has recorded sessions with the likes of Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Little Milton, Katy Moffatt, and Syd Straw. ~ Mark Deming & Steve Leggett
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Eleven Eleven

1. Harlan County Line

2. Johnny Ace Is Dead

3. Black Rose Of Texas

4. Gary, Indiana 1959

5. Run Conejo Run

6. No Worries Mija

7. What's Up With Your Brother?

8. Murrietta's Head

9. Manzanita

10. Dirty Nightgown

11. Two Lucky Bums

x

Track List: Public Domain

1. Shenandoah

2. Maggie Campbell

3. A Short A Life Of Trouble

4. What Did The Deep Sea Say

5. Engine

6. Delia

7. Dark Eyes

8. Walk Right In

9. Murder Of The Lawson Family

10. Don't Let Your Deal Go Down

11. Railroad Bill

12. Texas Rangers

13. Mama, Ain't Long For Day

14. East Virginia Blues

15. Sign On Judgment

16. (Untitled Track)

x

Track List: Blackjack David

1. Blackjack David

2. Abilene

3. New Highway

4. California Snow

5. Evening Blues

6. The Way You Say Good-Bye

7. Mary Brown

8. Laurel Lynn

9. 1968

10. From A Kitchen Table

11. Tall Trees

x

Track List: Interstate City (Live)

1. So Long Baby Goodbye (Live)

2. Out In California (Live)

3. Interstate City (Live)

4. Look Out (It Must Be Love) (Live)

5. Intro To Mister Lee (Live)

6. Thirty Dollar Room (Live)

7. Dry River (Live)

8. Museum Of Heart (Live)

9. Museum Of Heart (Live)

10. Jubilee Train/Do Re Mi/Promised Land (Live)

11. Long White Cadillac (Live)

12. The New Florence Avenue Lullaby (Live)

13. Romeo's Escape (Live)

x

Track List: King Of California

1. King Of California

2. Barn Burning

3. Fourth Of July

4. Goodbye Again

5. East Texas Blues

6. Every Night About This Time

7. Bus Station

8. Mother Earth

9. Blue Wing

10. Little Honey

11. (I Won't Be) Leaving

12. What Am I Worth

13. Border Radio

x

Track List: Romeo's Escape

1. Fourth Of July

2. Long White Cadillac

3. Every Night About This Time

4. Romeo's Escape

5. Brother On The Line

6. Jubilee Train

7. Border Radio

8. Far Away

9. New Tattoo

10. You Got Me

11. I Wish It Was Saturday Night

x

Track List: Ashgrove

1. Ashgrove

2. Rio Grande

3. Black Sky

4. Nine Volt Heart

5. Out Of Control

6. Everett Reuss

7. Sinful Daughter

8. The Man In The Bed

9. Black Haired Girl

10. Somewhere In Time

x

Track List: West Of The West

1. California Bloodlines

2. Redneck Friend

3. Kern River

4. Blind Love

5. Here In California

6. I'm Bewildered

7. Sonora's Death Row

8. Down On The Riverbed

9. Between The Cracks

10. Don't Look Now

11. Tramps And Hawkers

12. Loser

13. Surfer Girl

x

Track List: You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive (Single)

1. You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive

Comments

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Just saw him in concert w/Phil Whats Up With Your Brother Alvin - as always, Dave was great, and since it was a small venue had a great time interacting w/the audience (think nightclub size). Phil didn't look well but his voice was strong and his guitar playing was spot on. Friends ran into them after the show and said they were both charming and friendly.
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Dave has always been a superb songwriter and one hell of an axe man. But his singing has become more impressive over the years too. In concert, he is a very funny storyteller.
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kent74
He's always great live but one night at the Blue Door in OKC he and the Guilty Men set our hair on fire.
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jbrasuellwax 0
Excited to get to see him this month in San Francisco!
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So now he's stuck with me, too! AND I think he's coming to my town soon! Life is SWEET!
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he is an Awesome Performer Live
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I would posit that he's one of the premier songwriters of his generation, along with Paul Westerberg and Robert Polllard.
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addiemaupi
OMG! He is so awesome I love him so much my dad works at Yep roc with him and I was able to meet him!!!!!!!!! ! ! ! ! ! So amazing!!
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Don't read this because it actually works.You will be kissed on the nearest possible Friday by the love of your life.Tomorro w will be the best day if your life.However if you don't post this you will die in 2 days.Now you've started reading so don't stop.This so scary put this on least 5 songs in 143 minutes.When done press f6 and your lover's name will come on the screen in big letters.This is so scary because it actually works.
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Thanks for the great show at the Sportmens Mon June 3rd Mr Dave.
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Have you ever been down on the river bed?
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lastgasp61
1968 is an amazing song. The wasting of so many lives...
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rppacker
Sounds like Tom Rush
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I see Dave Alvin every chance I can get. He's one of those amazing artists whose recorded music is (almost) as great as his live shows. It's usually one or the other, I've noticed, with many of my favorites.
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I saw Dave Alvin about month ago at the High Noon Saloon in Madison, WI. Didn't know what to expect because I hadn't heard any of his stuff since the Blaster days in the 80's. He puts on a great live show. His song writing is extraordinar y . An American Blues treasure!
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kristenrocks i n g s
only thing better than music is live music
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Thanks Pandora.... I have a new life!!!
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There are none better than this "king of california", he is truly one honest and real songwriter.M y peronal favorite and awesome in the clubs.
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Awesome live and an outstanding songwriter, Dave Alvin is a American treasure. To me he defines Americana, which I believe is the art of storytelling through song. There are many other in a similar vein, but few do it better. It too a while for Dave to find his singing voice. Romeo's Escape will make you cringe on occasion, but the strength of the stories carries the album. Otherwise, the rest of his albums are strong.
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Love him :D
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Dave Alvin is one of the greatest living American songswriters . His songs, including such perfect ones as "Fourth of July," will last for generations.
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love it
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Saw him play this last year with the Guilty Women. Was wonderful.
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mmcdill
Ashgrove is one of my all-time favorite cds. Great music, great stories, great songs -- every one.
Report as inappropriate
Dave Alvin and his friends kick a**!!!
Report as inappropriate
Dave is an awesome live performer, he plays a mean guitar and his songs tell great stories.

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