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.
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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.
Dave Alvin is scheduled to perform on Sunday, August 29, at the Rhythm Room, 1019 East Indian School, with the Revenants. Showtime is 8 p.m. Tickets are $10. For details call 602-265-4842.