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Phoenix New Times
You Can Call Me Alvin

By Bob Mehr

Dave Alvin

If Dave Alvin hadn't written or sung another note after 1986, his place in rock 'n' roll history would still be secure. As a founding member of Los Angeles' seminal roots-rock revivalists the Blasters, and a guitarist for L.A. proto-punks X (and their acoustic offshoot the Knitters), Alvin has been a pivotal and influential figure in California music for more than 20 years.

Thankfully, the late '80s marked not an end but rather a beginning to Alvin's remarkable career as a solo artist. With 1987's Romeo's Escape, Alvin established his own distinct voice as insightful chronicler of the despaired, road-weary and broken-hearted. Musically, Alvin furthered the rockabilly revivalism of his Blasters-era work with an informed blend of disparate styles. It's a brand of music that Alvin himself describes as "American Folk Music" -- a fitting term, considering the way he blends genres ranging from traditional folk ballads, blues and rock 'n' roll to country and western. Alvin has continued with more than a decade of releases, fine-tuning his unique formula with each successive effort.

With his workmanlike eye for the details of everyday life and his rich, booming voice, Alvin infuses his musical portraits with a subtle empathy that belies the intensity of his lyrics. A fourth-generation Californian, Alvin weaves together character-driven narratives to produce collections of songs that often feel like a history of the Golden State's forgotten underclass.

A dedicated student of his home state's native Bakersfield country style, Alvin also organized and produced 1994's Tulare Dust, a remarkable tribute album celebrating the work of Merle Haggard and featuring fellow maverick singer-songwriter types like Dwight Yoakam, Joe Ely, and Rosie Flores.

Last year Alvin released his sixth solo album, Blackjack David, on Oakland, California-based Hightone Records. He's also been busy away from the stage, producing the forthcoming Warner Bros. release of Austin retro-twangers The Derailers, and logging time behind the board for accordionist Chris Gaffney and songstress Katie Moffat. And in an inspired musical match, Alvin will join English folk-guitarist Richard Thompson for a series of dates in September.

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